§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
, in rising to move—That Her Majesty be authorized to guarantee the payment of an annuity of three hundred and fifteen thousand pounds sterling for the purpose of a loan, to be raised by the Government of Egypt, in pursuance of the 682 Convention signed at London on the eighteenth day of March 1885, between Her Majesty and the Governments of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Turkey, and that provision be made out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, or the growing produce thereof, for the issue of such sums of money from time to time, as may be required, to pay any sums which may at any time be required to fulfil the guarantee of Her Majesty in respect of such annuity, conformably to the ten our of Her Majesty's engagement as specified in the said Convention,said: The first duty which I have marked out for myself in addressing the Committee has reference to the subject of the Question put by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). A point of form, immaterial in itself, has arisen in this case with regard to which Her Majesty's Government, acting in concurrence with the Ambassadors of the Powers, have determined that it is not in their judgment one of substance, and need not interfere with the progress of this question in Parliament. I will indicate its character in the simplest and most direct manner by stating the slight amendment which I propose to make in the Resolution now before the House. If hon. Members look at the sixth line of the Resolution, they will see that, as it stands, it runs to the effect that it is in pursuance of a Convention signed at London on the 18th of March, 1885, between Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Turkey. In lieu of that form of expression I propose to amend it by describing the Convention as concluded between Her Majesty and the Governments of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and with the authority of Turkey. The House will be aware that Turkey bears a different relation to this country as regards this subject to that of the other Great Powers of Europe. They are guaranteeing Powers, and they intervene in the matter with reference to their interests in the guarantee, and under various laws affecting Egypt as already established. Turkey intervenes not in relation to any interest in the business of guaranteeing, but as a Sovereign Power of the country. Those who have paid attention to this subject will, doubtless, be under the impression —and they could not be otherwise than under the impression—that the signature of Turkey would be appended together with those of the other guaranteeing 683 Powers. We were under that impression ourselves until yesterday, and of that there is evidence to be found in a note at the bottom of page 3 of the Declaration, and in the Convention it is again to be found, to the effect that the Declaration had not yet been signed by the Turkish Ambassador, and that his powers had not arrived. I need not say, of course, that that note was not founded on any assumption of ours, but upon a statement made from the highest source, and I believe it expressed the belief and the full expectation of the Ambassador himself at the time. But since then, and as far as our knowledge is concerned, yesterday there arose a question whether the concurrence of Turkey should be conveyed by a signature similar to the other signatures of the guaranteeing Powers, or by sanction given by a Firman of the Sultan. We have in our possession the strongest assurance that the authority to proceed has been given by the determination of the Sultan to issue a Firman upon the subject. In consequence of this doubt—it appears to have proceeded from some want of clearness in the telegraphic communications with Constantinople on the part of the Ambassadors—Lord Granville has to-day seen the Turkish Ambassador, and we have also thought it right to communicate with the Ambassadors of the six Great Powers; and the position of the question is, I believe, determined, at least so far as the guiding of our action is concerned, in the following Memorandum, which Lord Granville sends to me, and which I have his authority to read:—I asked the Turkish Ambassador and Hassan Fehmy Pasha this afternoon whether I was rightly informed that they were authorized formally to declare that the Sultan consents to the proposed loan and will sanction it by a Firman. Their Excellencies replied that they hoped within 48 hours to be instructed to sign the declaration—that is, to maintain the form of proceeding here exactly as it is—but that in any case they gave the assurance which I have stated regarding the consent of the Sultan to the loan. The Ambassadors of the other Powers and I myself took note of this assurance, and declared that we accepted it.That, I apprehend, there is no doubt at all, is to be considered as an official document. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: To-day?] Yes. I may add that I should have thought it right immediately at the close of yesterday's Sitting to have given this information to the 684 House; but Muslims Pasha gave his opinion that he felt there was no difficulty about the substance of the matter, and therefore I thought it right under the circumstances then not to trouble the House, but to reserve my explanation until I proposed the Resolution to-day. The House, then, will see that there is no substantial alteration proposed in the Resolution, that the expectation of the Turkish Ambassador is that the form which had been anticipated will be preserved, but that in any case the sanction and authority of the Sultan to the loan has already been given, and that the Firman has been granted. That being so, I will spare the House, as I am bound to spare them, any repetition of the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Wednesday week. Of course, that statement was made on behalf of the Government. It contained a clear and full, though not a very lengthened, statement of the effect of the Convention and Declaration, and I think it quite enough now to refer to that statement without going any further. There is, however, one portion of that statement which was not developed at the time, and which has not been developed since by the Questions put in this House, on which I should say a few words, and that is the nature and extent of the liabilities of Egypt in the month of April last, with respect to which the House is not yet fully informed. Two questions, I apprehend, are before me on this occasion. My first duty is to show that there is a real necessity for an arrangement of this kind, and my second duty is to show that besides being necessary it is also a safe arrangement. With regard to its necessity, that will, I think, be shown by the figures which have already been partially given, and by others which I will more completely give on the present occasion. The House ought to understand that the necessities of Egypt have been supplied to a very considerable extent during these recent occurrences by banking advances. Those I describe under that phrase to distinguish them from the regular recurring charges of the State; but there were banking advances outstanding to the extent of £1,367,000. The whole of these advances become due on the 1st of April. They have been renewed from time to time, but they were renewed 685 while we were negotiating, or taking measures having reference to negotiation, either here or in Egypt, or in correspondence with the Powers. Under these circumstances, as the matter was in progress, these banking advances had been renewed. Now the matter is no longer in progress, and, so far as negotiations are concerned, it has reached its full completion. The proposal, with the sanction and assent of the Powers, is now in our hands; and we apply to the House to give its authority for the purpose of guaranteeing the loan. I have no right to declare—I will not even say I have a right to expect—certainly I have no right to announce—that the banking advances would again be renewed if the House shows a disinclination to accede to the application now made. These banking advances form part of the current liabilities of Egypt, and they become due on April 1, and would form a portion of the sum for which Egypt would be in deficiency, and for which Egypt would be a bankrupt State, unless provision be made for the purpose of raising the money as is now proposed. Now, to that £1,307,000 we are to add the excess of normal charges for the month of April over the Income and Revenue of the month of April. I need not enter into the details of the charges; they are partly official charges, and partly connected with the payment of liabilities for the tribute or for debt. But the excess of these normal charges over the accruing means is £309,000, according to our latest report; and that, added to the banking advances, makes a liability of £1,676,000, which Egypt has not the means to satisfy unless and until the arrangement which is now before the House shall be proceeded with. Now, Sir, before I go to the question of the safety of this loan, I will say one word on the subject of the Suez Canal. I do not intend to enter into any detailed explanations on that subject. While I admit that there may be differences of opinion among us in regard to it, I am not aware what those differences are, and I am content to rest for the present on the statement contained in the despatch of Lord Granville of January 3, 1S83, and upon the rather considerable sanction and authority which that despatch has obtained—not an authority overbearing the opinion of the House of Commons, but still an 686 authority of considerable weight from the reference which is made to it in the recent Declaration. In part 3 of the Declaration, in the first paragraph, these expressions are used—Whereas the Powers have agreed to recognize the urgent necessity for negotiating with the object of sanctioning, by a Conventional Act, the establishment of a definite regulation guaranteeing, at all times, and for all Powers, the freedom of the Suez Canal: It has been agreed between the seven Governments above named that a Commission, composed of Delegates named by the said Governments shall meet at Paris on the 30th of March, to prepare and draw up this Act, taking for its basis the Circular of the Government of Her Britannic Majesty of the 3rd January, 1883."—[Egypt. No. 6 (1885), p. 9.]Perhaps I may as well say that, although the first meeting takes place on so early a day as the 30th of March, I make no doubt that is to be considered simply as an introductory meeting, and undoubtedly it will imply nothing adverse to the consideration of the Powers, inasmuch as there is no necessity, although it is highly desirable that the matter should be put forward; yet there is no urgency of the same kind in relation to the arrangement as to the Suez Canal as there is in regard to the temporary arrangement in respect to the finances of Egypt. Now, the real difficulties of the case, for those who think that they exist, turn, I think, entirely upon the fears that are entertained of what is known as an International Control. I cannot say that I derive very much light as to the nature of the objections taken from the Motion of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Bruce); but I think this question is a question of some breadth as well as of deep interest, and I shall not run much risk of misapprehending the mind of hon. Gentlemen, in whatever part of the House they may sit, if I say that I conceive there is no doubt that these fears of International Control must stand in connection with one of two subjects—either they must stand in connection with the Commission which may or may not sit, but which, in a certain contingency, will sit at the close of two years, or else these fears arise out of or stand in connection with the guarantee which the House is invited to give for the loan. With respect to International Control, it is quite unnecessary, I think, that I should re-state the views of the Government. The desire of the Government has been, I conceive, 687 all along to respect, to recognize, and to cherish to the best of their ability, except where stern necessity prevented them, that autonomy which, by the law of Europe and by the law of Turkey, has been guaranteed to the Province of Egypt. And, therefore, it is neither International Control nor any control properly so-called—nor any control signifying by control a Power dependent upon another—that has had much favour in our eyes. But quite apart from that, quite apart from our desire to respect the just interests of Egypt, and to give Egypt as far as we can those habits of administration on which its future happiness must depend, we have always admitted to the House that International Control is a thing in our view not to be heard of or entertained. We have deplored the Dual Control, and have considered it the root of the mischiefs that have since befallen Egypt. In discussions on the subject I have always admitted the integrity of the motives which led to the Dual Control. I believe there are many reasons, either plausible or more or less serious, which can be alleged in excuse for the adoption of a measure which has proved to be so unfortunate, and to which I, at any rate, may safely say that from the first, and long before it was ever adopted, had declared publicly my strong and insurmountable opposition. Therefore, let it be perfectly understood—I am endeavouring to measure the occasion about which your fears arise—let it be perfectly understood that we are quite agreed with you in allowing that if International Control can be shown to spring out of the present arrangement, that is an objection which I do not know is sufficient to overcome the necessity of the case; but undoubtedly it is sufficient utterly to condemn the proposal of the Government. First, then, as regards fears connected with the Commission. This Commission is a possibility. It will be a reality should the Convention be sanctioned. It will be a reality if the unfavourable contingency of Egypt's failing to re-establish the equilibrium of its finance. I think I need not now enter upon a consideration of the tendency of that Commission to open the door to International Control, not only because it is postponed for two years and depends upon a new state of circumstances, but because it must depend on the powers 688 given to that Commission, and any powers which can lead to the exercise of International Control through the medium of that Commission must necessarily be the object of negotiation and of concord among the Powers of Europe. Therefore, I put aside the question of the danger of International Control through future contingent arrangements in connection with the Commission, because those arrangements are not yet made, and there will be an opportunity of taking care, if ever they come to be made, that they are safe and prudent arrangements. Therefore, the real fears in the minds of Gentlemen arise from the guarantee of the loan; and the fears connected with that guarantee have reference undoubtedly both to the intermediate period of two years and to the time which may follow while the guarantee subsists. Now, is there any ground for those fears? That is a question which I hope the House will fairly and impartially determine. Let me first describe what I take to be the general position of Egypt during these two years that are to be granted to the Khedive for the purpose of ascertaining whether a more permanent tax on the dividends of the bondholders is or is not possible. The Commission is to be postponed. The evident intention of that postponement, I apprehend, is that the action of the Egyptian Government should during those two years be a free action—I mean free from the exercise of compulsion. When Gentlemen speak of interference in the government of Egypt, let it be borne in mind that we have no determinate or legal right of interference. There are, however, rights which are indeterminate, that are frequently as real as those which are more defined, and there are moral rights which are as strong as those which have taken legal form. Our position is this—that, in the first place, we have a military situation, with the various necessities that grew out of it. We have, in the second place, I think I may say without offence, a function, some may say enjoyed by us, but I would rather say incumbent on us—the function of the natural advisors. In the present circumstances, and especially during these two years and until some more permanent arrangement can be made by general consent, we are the natural advisers of the Egyptian Government for the time. 689 That is the only sense in which, as I understand, we are justified in interfering in the affairs of Egypt. Now, these facts stand upon the general and free recognition of Europe. Nobody grudges us the performance of our duty—so defined. [Ironical laughter and cheers.] I hail that cheer with some satisfaction, because if nobody grudges us the performance of that duty it seems to follow by inevitable consequence, if it be not indeed part of an identical proposition, that other persons are not particularly anxious for a share in it. For if they were anxious for a share in it they would then grudge us this exclusive privilege. Not grudging it, it seems to follow that they do not desire it. Well, now, in our opinion this function of advising Egypt would be subject to every kind of underground opposition and embarrassment were we to exercise it in a sense hostile to the general sentiment of Europe. We have, with infinite pains, I may fairly say, and with a gradual surmounting of great and many difficulties, arrived at a point in which, as we think, we have obtained that community of aim and purpose which is embodied in the present Convention, and which constitutes the only condition in the nature of things upon which we can, in a satisfactory manner, exercise the influence properly attaching to our position in Egypt, and act as the proper financial advisors of the Khedive in the period which has been marked out by the Powers. For what is now the case? Had we been there in opposition to them, without any community of purpose or desire, we should have been liable both to formal and to informal obstacles and opposition of every sort. We have now a common purpose with Europe. We have now a common desire with Europe. Interference with the exercise of the discharge of our duty would be an interference with the fulfilment of their own desire and purpose, and they with us are cordially united in a sincere anxiety—first of all, to ascertain, and secondly to rectify, the condition of Egyptian finance. So far, therefore, I say upon the face of the case that does not bear the aspect of an unsound position. Now, I come more particularly to examine those questions about guarantees and what guarantees imply. An hon. Member below the Gangway asked me to-day whether it 690 was too late to insert in the arrangement some provision barring the interference of other Powers? The question is—Why should there be such a provision? Is there a reason for it? If there is a reason, what is it? It is admitted that no right of interference grows out of any expression used in the Convention or in the Declaration. There is not a syllable that looks like it. Our interference cannot be justified by reference to the Convention and Declaration. We derive from them no title whatever for interference. Our position, as I have stated, is one growing out of the circumstances of Egypt. Neither can any Power derive any right of interference from any expression contained in the Declaration and Convention. Then, if this right of intervention is not founded upon any express words of the Declaration or the Convention, upon what is it founded? It is a general rule of International Law that when any State or Power accepts pecuniary aid, either in the form of cash or of liability, from another State, that other State thereby tacitly and effectually acquires the right of intervention in its affairs? I think that is a fair statement of the issue. If it does not rest upon express declaration in the particular case, does it rest upon either general law or general usage? Most confidently do I affirm that it does not rest either upon the one or the other. No such doctrine is to be found in general law, and any such doctrine is utterly confuted by general usage. How shall I refer to the evidence upon that subject? We have had large experience in this happy country in the practice of giving aid in money to other States. No country in the world is so rich in the means of examining this question from the light afforded by its own experience, for we have given aid right and left, in small sums and in large. We have given it in one way and in another. We have given it for objects of war, and we have given it for objects of peace; and it is very odd indeed if we cannot arrive at a conclusion upon this subject. I might go back to the subsidies of Mr. Pitt, and even beyond; but I spare the House further researches into political antiquity. I never heard that any of the subsidies of Mr. Pitt, which were enormous in their amount, though in certain cases there were stipulations for particular things to be done 691 at the moment, were connected with the remotest idea or presumption of interference in the concerns of the State to which the subsidies were given. I admit that there is a difference in the case of subsidies, because you may say that is a gift of money once and for all. But our experience is not limited to subsidies at all. It comes up in every imaginable form, and I take first the case of the loans to Spain. The loans to Spain in the Peninsular War were enormous. Certain very limited payments have been made in respect of them; but the House would be alarmed if it had the occasion, as I have had at certain times, to look into the state of the case. The figures are sufficiently alarming. I do not say now what contention may be raised by Spain upon them, nor do I make any sort of charge against Spain. But this I say—that with all these loans, which were of vast extent, no right of interference in the internal affairs of Spain, great or small, direct or indirect, ever for a moment was con-nected, and no allegation that such a right of interference would grow up was made. Then I take a transaction in which I was myself responsibly concerned. That was the loan to Sardinia during the Crimean War. We never claimed any right of interference with Sardinia, which at that time was not part of the great Kingdom of United Italy, but was a comparatively insignificant, third-rate State in the Northern portion of that country, with respect to which, if interference had been thought of, it would have been much more easy to assert it. I go on from loans to guarantees. We have guaranteed loans again, and again, and again on the part of our Colonies. We have guaranteed the largest amounts in the case of Canada. Did the guarantee of those loans affect in the slightest degree the title of the Colony to self-government? Would it have been possible for us for one moment to alter in the slightest particular our relations with Canada and the administration of Colonial affairs in consequence of those guarantees? Such an attempt would have been ridiculous, and a violation which would have recoiled upon ourselves. But there are other cases. There was the case of the Turkish loan of 1855. We guaranteed that loan, and the dividends upon it were not always forthcoming at the 692 proper time; but yet we never founded upon that, nor did France, any title to interfere in the affairs of Turkey. There is only one other case which occurs to my recollection at the present time, of which I will venture to give the House a rather fuller exposition, because Gentlemen might think at first sight that they could make use of it to found an opposite argument. That is the case of the Greek loan. They know, on the one hand, (here has been a guarantee of a loan by a portion of the European Powers—France, Russia, and Great Britain—and they know, also, there has been interference in the affairs of Greece. Therefore, let us see in what way these two undoubted facts stand related to one another. The guarantee of the Greek loan has nothing whatever to do with the interference in the affairs of Greece. [Opposition cries of "Oh!"] That is the state of knowledge in which Gentlemen opposite come down to the House to discuss this question. Have these Gentlemen looked at one of the documents in the case? They receive with scorn my statement that the two things are totally unconnected. But is there one who has looked at the two sides of the case? The case stands thus:—On the 7th of May, 1832, there was a Treaty framed between England, France, Russia, and Bavaria; and in one of the Articles of that Treaty there was a covenant that England, Russia, and France should guarantee a Greek loan. That guarantee was an important part, and for Greece a necessary part, or believed to be necessary, for the arrangements then made. But, so far from founding any interference upon the guarantee, the guarantee was a subordinate arrangement in the Treaty for interference. What was the main object of that Treaty? The main object of that Treaty was to give a King to Greece. Now, undoubtedly, if ever there was to be interference in relation to the guaranteed loan of Greece, we have here offered the best opportunity for it. I do not deny for a moment that in cases where the conditions of a loan are not fulfilled a limited right of interference arises. There is no doubt about that whatever; but I am now arguing the question whether a general right of interference arises. I do not doubt that, if Egypt does not pay, the guaranteeing Powers have a right to in- 693 terfere; but I think I can show this—that even when there has been that right, and apparently the broadest occasion for the exercise of that right, no interference at all has taken place. In the case of Greece we were dealing with a Kingdom totally unable to pay the interest of the loan. The Treaty provided that the loan should be the first charge upon the Revenue, and that nothing should be applied to any purposes of Government until the annual dividends on the loan had been defrayed. And it wont further to provide—which looks a little like interference—that the Diplomatic Agents of the three countries should watch over the payment of the dividends of the loan. These dividends could not be paid, and were not paid. The Representatives watched over the matter as well as they could, from time to time sending the extremely limited allowances which the country could afford. But although the country could not fulfil the provisions of the loan, there was not the slightest attempt to interfere in the affairs of Greece on account of that loan. What was the basis of interference in the affairs of Greece, and what was the object of the Treaty of 1832? The purpose of the Treaty was a much more important affair even than the guarantee; it was the choice of a Sovereign; and on what ground did the Powers justify their choice of a Sovereign for Greece? They justified it by this recital—that they were exercising the power conveyed to them by the Greek nation, not arising out of their guarantee, but a specific power arising out of a specific mission, an authentic and formal conveyance to thorn of the power to choose a Sovereign for Greece. I have now gone through every case which tends to throw light upon this question. I have declared that I can find no principle or construction of law that tends to support this interference except with reference to the specific conditions of the loan itself, which I do not deny for a moment—no principle of law that tends to support any general doctrine or right of interference. There has been a number of cases in connection with which there has been no such interference, and some of them have been eases in which the title to limited interference was perfectly clear and indisputable, and yet even in that limited interference there was no right to interfere with the real and absolute autonomy 694 of the countries or States affected. In the matters affecting Greece, besides the guaranteeing Powers, other Powers have interfered; for instance, in the settlement of the disputes between Greece and Turkey. The matters wore not taken into the hands of the guaranteeing Powers as if they wore invested by any exclusive and indefeasible right; but they were settled by the intervention of the Great Powers at large. It is really very difficult to carry an argument further than that unless something in the nature of a shadowy and positive presumption has been set up to show that, in some way or other, out of those guarantees there arises a general right of interference. Then there is the question whether Egypt will be able to fulfil her pecuniary obligations. These pecuniary obligations will take precedence of any other. They will rank before all the obligations of her present creditors; and, notoriously, even in the midst of war and difficulty, the Revenue of Egypt is more than sufficient to cover its administrative expenses. The only doubt is whether it is able to bear the entire charge of its Debt. Here is a charge which is to take precedence of the whole claims of that Debt; and, therefore, the notion of any defalcation in the payment of the £315,000 is one which may be fairly and safely set aside. I believe I am right in the doctrine I have laid down with regard to the pecuniary guarantee, and in holding that in every case an International engagement which affects the internal affairs of a particular country must be construed strictly in its terms, and does not and cannot convey the slightest title to any intervention in its affairs beyond what those terms absolutely and indubitably convey. If that doctrine is sound I fall back upon the general proposition I have laid down. If it is unsound, and if it is in the power of countries to found rights of interference in the affairs of a particular State or Province on an International engagement beyond what its terms convey, then let me tell you that you are too late in raising this question, because the rights of International interference in Egypt are already established by a multitude of European instances. The doctrine is perfectly sound, and no attempt at interference even in Egypt has ever been founded upon any of these International engagements be- 695 yond the letter of the engagement itself. I may mention some of them. There is the Treaty between the Powers of England, Austria, Russia, and Turkey, of 1840, which extended the Capitulations to Egypt. There is the Instrument establishing the Courts of Justice in Egypt in 1874; there is the Law of Liquidation of 1880; and there are the recent commercial arrangements in Egypt, which, perhaps, are the latest of all the arrangements which have been made, and which have consecrated any right of interference, so far as the letter and provisions of the document are concerned, but which have never been admitted to be the basis of any general right of interference beyond what the provisions convey. There is also the Slave Trade Convention with England of the 4th of August, 1877, and there are various others which I might quote; but I think those to which I have already referred are quite sufficient for the purposes of illustration. Then the question is, as far as I understand it, whether, it being admitted that there are no words which have been used on which a right of interference can be founded, that still it is contended that it would be right to introduce words for the purpose of barring interference. I respectfully differ from that opinion. In my opinion, it would be foolish and mischievous in many ways to introduce these words. In the first place, I should like to ask the House to consider what shape they would give to a proposal of that kind, how the interference is to be barred, and what kind of interference is to be barred? Is it interference of a coercive character that is to be barred, or is it interference by advice that is to be barred? And who is to be barred? As I understand the contention of Gentlemen who say there ought to be a clause prohibiting interference, it is that there ought to be inserted in the Convention, or in some collateral or consequential document, a declaration that the other Powers may not interfere in the affairs of Egypt, but that England may. Is that seriously contended? I have great doubt whether it can be seriously contended. Can you describe or define what you would wish to shut out? Could you carry your barring or prohibitive words to the extent of preventing any Power from submitting a recommendation to Egypt if they see cause? 696 But, suppose you did, and that is about the furthest you could go, what would you gain by it? Nothing but this—that instead of a responsible recommendation, instead of a recommendation in the face of day, instead of a recommendation made with your knowledge so that you could call the makers of it to account if they transgressed the legitimate functions of their position—instead of that you would be liable to underground indirect recommendations by secret and irresponsible agents, and you would find yourself thwarted at every turn in the discharge of an important duty by those whom you could not call to account, but whom you put in. motion originally by your own unreasonable and excessive jealousy. Sir, it would not be possible to frame such a provision in terms that would be satisfactory even to the framer. But I do not stop there. In my opinion, if you did frame it, you would inflict positive mischief upon the country that was the immediate object of it, and likewise a positive mischief with regard to the generally established law of usage, because if you frame a provision of that kind you would overset entirely the true contention upon the law of usage which has heretofore existed, which, as I have shown, justified no interference whatever, except on the infraction of the terms of the guarantee. If you go beyond that, and say that this guarantee shall not contain any right to do something or other, which something or other you find it hardly possible to describe, you give sanction to a new general doctrine of the most mischievous character—namely, that if there were not a prohibition the Powers would be bound to interfere, and you would set the cleverest lawyers in motion to try if they could find a means—and in most things when they do set about it they do find a means—of driving a coach and four through your provisions. Besides, you would establish a general doctrine contrary to that which now prevails, and by the defects that would be found in your prohibitive words you would give a direct sanction to the very mischief you intended to escape. I have now nearly concluded what I have to say on this subject. I think we have obtained every security for the harmonious and effective discharge of our difficult and important duties in Egypt, and for working 697 in harmony with those other Powers of Europe who, though they may not be as powerful in Egypt as we are, yet are powerful enough, if it be their interest and desire, to give very great trouble, and powerful enough in combination, when fortified by the legal rights they enjoy, under a variety of arrangements, effectually to thwart us, and to involve us in the utmost difficulty and embarrassment. Now, in this state of affairs the Government, for the first time, has obtained a position in which they may fearlessly say that these Great Powers are at one, that the interests of the Powers are one. ["No, no!"] I say that the interest of these Powers are one for the purposes of this Convention. We are not vendors of a quack medicine; we do not say that we have got a pill of some particular description that will cure all human maladies; we do not say that all the Powers have been amalgamated in one by the exercise of our magical faculties. But what we say is this, and the proposition is a limited and feasible one—that the finance of Egypt is now about to be put upon its legs, if I may say so, for a given time by an arrangement to which all the Powers are parties, and that arrangement is brought about by the assumption of pecuniary liability on the part of each and every one of them. In that pecuniary liability they have a common interest with us, and it can only be escaped from by carrying through the finances of Egypt on a satisfactory footing; and, therefore, they are directly interested to sustain us in every arrangement made by us with tolerable prudence and integrity, for the sake of improving and establishing the condition of Egyptian finance. That is the only security which the nature of the case admits. Nothing that mere jealousy can devise will effect the object. Of course, I am not going to urge that argument for the purpose of saying that if the legal doctrine of guarantee were the opposite of that I have described we should overlook such a state of facts. I must therefore say that we have pursued a right and proper course by avoiding the hopeless task—in my opinion, the most dangerous and perilous task—of endeavouring to make provisions which not only are not required, but which are themselves fraught with extreme danger, for the purpose of avoiding an interference which we have 698 not the slightest reason to expect, and which, exercised in an unfriendly spirit, would be as much and as justly injurious to the purpose and interests and influence of the Power exercising that influence as to ourselves. I think, therefore, in these circumstances, I have said enough to show that our judgment has something to claim in its behalf in the arrangement we have made and in the arrangement which you substitute for it; and I do not envy the office and function of the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce) or any other Gentleman who had to devise that substitute, and not only to devise it, for his ingenuity would be enough for that, but to bring the whole Powers of Europe and the Sultan of Turkey into harmony with his views. Such an office as that I would readily leave to anyone who is disposed to undertake it, rather than charge myself with a duty which I believe to be, under the circumstances of the case, absolutely impossible of satisfactory execution. I submit then, Sir, in the first place, that this agreement is necessary; in the second place, that it is safe, and I put the Motion with the slight Amendment I have made in your hands, and leave it to the fair and serious consideration of the British House of Commons.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That Her Majesty be authorised to guarantee the payment of an annuity of three hundred and fifteen thousand pounds sterling for the purpose of a loan, to be raised by the Government of Egypt, in pursuance of the Convention signed at London on the eighteenth day of March 1885, between Her Majesty and the Governments of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia, with the authority of Turkey; and that provision be made out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, or the growing produce thereof, for the issue of such sums of money from time to time, as may be required, to pay any sums which may at any time be required to fulfil the guarantee of Her Majesty in respect of such annuity, conformably to the tenor of Her Majesty's engagement as specified in the said Convention."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. T. C. BRUCE
, in rising to move, as an Amendment, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to insert the words—The proposals for adjusting the finances of Egypt contained in the draft Convention of March 18th, and the collateral arrangement, indicated in the Papers presented to Parliament, for regulating, without any previous communication to Parliament, the International position 699 of the Suez Canal are unsatisfactory, and do not warrant the agreement into which the Government have provisionally entered,said, he would only make one remark with reference to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman a few moments ago. He had always in that House expressed his respect for the right hon. Gentleman and the great position he held; but he should feel that the right hon. Gentleman's observations on this occasion would be even more pertinent if he did not remember what happened some time ago. In July last he endeavoured to bring before the House the principle which underlay the arrangement; and the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman, not the right hon. Gentleman himself, prevented him from having the opportunity of doing so. He confessed that they were now in some difficulty—and that was a difficulty he foresaw and endeavoured to prevent—when they were to meet an arrangement concluded with the Powers of Europe before the House of Commons had an opportunity of discussing it. What he felt on this matter and on the negotiations that had been carried on was that we had created and strengthened the intervention of Foreign Powers in Egypt, which he believed would be disastrous to Egypt and disastrous to the interests of England. We were at one time simply on equal terms with the European Powers—that was to say, we represented certain capitalists who had invested money in that country. If we were in that position now the case would be different. But a great many things had happened since then. We had virtually taken possession of Egypt, and put it under our control. We had made ourselves responsible, not only for the interests of England there, but for the interests of Egypt itself, and we held a position entirely different from that of any other Power, which, in his opinion, we were bound in justice to Egypt to defend, and that point had not been sufficiently considered in the negotiations which had taken place. He wished to go back to the Law of Liquidation of 1880. That Law of Liquidation was a compromise between Egypt and her creditors. It secured certain terms to the creditors, and provided that certain lands should be charged with the payment of the Debt to the exclusion of everything else. The Law of Liquida- 700 tion, in addition, included certain subsidiary conditions, such as that the Government should contract no new loan, and none of the surplus funds of the ceded Provinces should go to the Government, but be all devoted to a Sinking Fund for the Debt. Certain conditions were also attached to the management of the railways, which greatly hampered the development of the railway system. All these conditions were guaranteed by the right given to the International Tribunals to pursue the Government legally in the event of an infraction of any one of them. These rules and regulations were, no doubt, of pecuniary advantage to the creditors, but were laid down because the Egyptian Government of that day was in the hands of persons whom it was impossible to trust, and who, if full liberty were allowed them, would have involved the country in the greatest possible difficulties. These rules, however, prevented the Egyptian Government from restoring its fortunes, and were absolutely un-suited to that Government now. When England, having at all events some reputation for financial honesty, took over the administration of Egypt—as she had in reality done, for the present Egyptian Government was merely a form she was entitled—nay, bound—to free the Egyptian Government from the trammels which prevented them from using their revenues in the way which the interests of the country required. In the days when that ought to have been done the German Government were perfectly ready to allow Her Majesty's Government to do all that they might please, and the French Government might have been induced to concur without much difficulty, as they had submitted to the abolition of the Dual Control. The position of the Egyptian Government was that of a Company who carried on a large commercial establishment after closing their capital fund. As a matter of fact, there always had been a surplus in connection with the ceded Provinces; but owing to the conditions of the Law of Liquidation that surplus had not been made available for administrative purposes; it had been applied to a repayment which had been of no use to the bondholders, but which might have been of use to Egypt if it had not been for that fallacy by which some persons proceed to pay debts 701 with one hand when they were borrowing with the other. So clear was this that when the Representatives of the Foreign Governments were assembled here last year they unanimously agreed that the surplus of the Debt ought to be applied to the Government of the country, and a similar recommendation was afterwards made by Lord Northbrook. The act, instead of being avowed by the English Government as it ought to have been, was represented as the act of the Egyptian Government, and was received with that horror which people would naturally show at the application of an Oriental Government to be allowed to diminish its liabilities. The Egyptian Government accordingly received some admirable lectures on the propriety of respecting Treaties and preserving commercial honesty, which, coming as they did from such Powers as Russia, struck him as being rather absurd. That these lectures wore addressed to Egypt was due to the fact that we had never frankly admitted the liabilities which we had incurred. The Law of Liquidation was followed by a revolution, and a conquest by putting down the revolution; and, effecting the conquest, we had placed ourselves in a position very different from that which we were in before, and we could not escape from our responsibilities, however much we might wish to do so. He wished now to come to the circumstances connected with these negotiations. In November of last year England made certain proposals to the other Powers. The French Government delayed six weeks before answering them; but Her Majesty's Government showed much more activity, because their reply was sent in four days, and that reply amounted to a concession on all the material points. There was a curious illustration of the way in which this business had been conducted. The English Government were anxious to raise money for paying the Alexandria indemnities and other purposes. Other Governments were as much or more interested in the payment of the indemnities than England; yet when Her Majesty's Government brought forward their scheme in August or September, 1884, they found that the French Government were determined to reject everything which they proposed. Two things had to be borne in mind by a Government negotiating with Foreign 702 Powers with regard to Egypt—namely, their political and financial interests. France at one time had large political interests in Egypt; but, entirely through her own fault, she had lost her claim to special consideration. When the Dual Control led to the necessity for a display of force, and the necessity of imposing upon the Egyptians a yoke which they seemed to have thrown over, the French withdrew, and declined to take any part in carrying out their implied obligations. All the efforts of the French Government since had been devoted, not to the settlement of the financial question, which was a very small one, but to replace themselves in their former political position. During the continuance of the Dual Control, it was notorious that they intrigued against the Controllers, and did their best to render that system of administration ineffective, for their own advantage. Since then they had adopted a system of intrigue against our officers in Egypt, and had striven to prevent us from carrying out those reforms which we alone could carry out, and on which the future of Egypt depended. It was rather remarkable to see what the objections of the French Government to our proposals were. The differences between the English and the French proposals mainly consisted in this—one of the English proposals was to simplify the Government of Egypt by doing away with the separate administration of the Daira. That was objected to by the French Government, because it would have diminished the number of French functionaries. The other main point was with reference to the sum to be deducted from the bondholders. The proposal of Her Majesty's Government indicated a sum of £374,000, which would be derived by the reduction of one-half per cent from the rate of interest. The French proposed, in lieu of that, to substitute a charge of 5 per cent upon the coupons, which would bring in £208,000; but they attached a condition to that, by which they stipulated that all the surplus of the Egyptian Revenue was to be repaid to the bondholders, and that if any diminution was to be made from the receipts of the bondholders after two years it could only be done after the institution of an International Commission, which would, practically, entirely supersede the Go- 703 vernment of Egypt. So that all these negotiations resulted only in obtaining a deduction of £200,000 in the bondholders' claims for two years, to be repaid by surpluses; and if that were continued, the government of Egypt would be handed over to an International Commission, in which this country, after all its sacrifices, were only to have one vote among seven. Then came the question of the guarantee of the loan, which was immediately before the House. He would consider for one moment what it all meant. The Prime Minister had said, with perfect truth, that no financial risk was incurred in the guarantee. Why, then, was it a joint guarantee? There was no financial advantage in having the guarantee of the Powers, for they all knew that, as a financial operation, a loan guaranteed by England was quite as good, if not better, than one guaranteed by all the Powers. It certainly was giving no help to Egyptian finance to make this loan on a joint guarantee, and the only object of the Powers in insisting on it was, undoubtedly, that they hoped to gain an equal position with this country in Egypt. Under these circumstances, considering the ex-tent to which these Powers had already interfered in Egypt, who would not believe that the guarantee of this loan would give them greater power to interfere in the future? And as the loan was to be managed by the Commissioners of the Debt and placed on the same footing as other loans, it gave the same power of interference to those who guaranteed it as they already possessed under the Law of Liquidation. The guarantee of the Powers being, therefore, an unnecessary contribution to the loan, it was a political, and not a financial, operation. To come to the Suez Canal question. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to Lord Granville's despatch of May 3. He was not going to dispute the propriety of Lord Granville's despatches. As a base, he believed them admirable; but they wanted a superstructure, and they wanted to know what it was to be. The Suez Canal was a very remarkable institution. It was made with Egyptian money, and was supposed to be an international institution; but it was really a French Company, and if such a superstructure could be built on the Firman of Said Pasha, he would be sorry to say 704 what could not be built on the despatch of Lord Granville. M. Waddington had urged that the Commission on the Canal should sit in Paris, because it was a French Company. Lord Granville, as was his habit, announced very properly that, though a French Company, it was mainly supported by English money. Then, as was also his habit, he immediately gave way. They had seen something of the doings of the Government with the Suez Canal, so he would not go back on that; but, considering the enormous magnitude of the interest of this country in the Canal, he thought they had a right, when they were informed that an arrangement was to be made with reference to the Suez Canal which was not to be communicated to Parliament, to show some jealousy. Considering that we had undoubtedly perfect security for the loan, he regretted very much that we should not take the whole of it, instead of leaving it to others to come in. The whole of this financial arrangement was based upon a system adopted before in Egypt, which he did not think had proved very satisfactory. They took the Revenue and Expenditure of the country and inferred that the future Revenue and Expenditure would be the same. But they had the statement of Sir Evelyn Baring that the estimate of the Revenue of Egypt was a fluctuating and uncertain one, as it must be in a country where the Revenue was principally derived from land. The whole of this proposal was based on that, and the amount of the loan gave a surplus of about £1,500,000 independent of charges already paid; and that was all they had to go and come upon, as the rest of the Revenue was appropriated to meet the different charges of administration. There was no provision for military expenditure, except £200,000, the whole expense of garrisoning Egypt; because the expense of the Soudan would fall on this country, which would only have one vote in seven in the disposal of its finances. He could not believe that system could produce anything like a permanent result, and they would find themselves again and again unable to carry on the administration of the country without returning year after year to those Powers who had no interest in its success, and who were extremely glad that this country should take all the re- 705 sponsibility of any action they might direct. The position this country stood in was that for all the real difficulties in Egypt it remained practically responsible. We could do nothing, however, with the finances of the country. We could neither borrow nor use the credit of the country without the consent of the Powers; and we, who had spent millions of money and thousands of lives, and who were, he was afraid, going to spend many thousands of lives more, wore left in Egypt merely as one of the half-dozen Powers who, at some time or other, had lent money to Egypt—and we had no power or position beyond that. The Prime Minister had spoken about the immediate bankruptcy of the Egyptian Government. He thought that bankruptcy was of rather a constructive kind. He would bow to the authority of the Prime Minister on all matters of finance; but as to the finance of Oriental countries, he thought he had seen more than the right hon. Gentleman. He had been necessarily familiar for many years with the finance of Oriental countries, and he did not think he ever knew one of them so far from bankruptcy as Egypt. He thought that if those gentlemen who had advanced £1,500,000 to the Egyptian Government found that this arrangement was not carried out there would be no great difficulty in obtaining a continuance of their advances; because they knew that some other arrangement equally satisfactory to them would be made. He could not but think that if we took the position which we ought to take, if we made them clearly understand that we were the people who governed Egypt, there would be no difficulty in getting away from these little threads with which the Lilliputians were at this moment tying us. He thought that the concessions we were making were not required by the state of the case, and that they would render the condition and circumstances of Egypt more difficult and more painful than before. When England bombarded Alexandria and put down the rebellion in Egypt, it undertook the task and the duty of placing Egypt and its people in a position of freedom and prosperity. But by this Agreement the people of Egypt would be still further bound by the financial Powers of Europe. England was thus placing them, not in a 706 better but in a worse position; and was promising them not a future but a revival of the past. That was not the duty which we owed to Egypt. Neither the methods in which the arrangement had been conducted, nor the results which it would produce, wore in conformity with the sacrifices which this country had made, and which even under this arrangement it would still be called upon to make, because it must be remembered the Agreement did not provide anything for war expenditure. He hoped, under these circumstances, whatever difficulties there might be, those difficulties would be met as this country had met a great many difficulties before, and that we should not neglect the duty which we owed to ourselves and the Egyptian people by consenting to the proposed arrangement.
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the proposals for adjusting the finances of Egypt contained in the Convention of March 18th, and the collateral arrangement, indicated in the Papers presented to Parliament, for regulating, without any previous communication to Parliament, the international position of the Suez Canal are unsatisfactory, and do not warrant the agreement into which the Government have provisionally entered,"—(Mr. Thomas Bruce)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR WALTERB. BARTTELOT
said, he had listened most attentively to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce), and if any man over made out a case his hon. Friend had done so. In his (Sir Walter B. Barttelot's) opinion the Prime Minister's speech was the weakest speech that had ever been delivered upon a great occasion by the First Minister of the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman avoided every issue which ought to have been raised on such an occasion in that House. He did not, for instance, tell them the reasons which had now made the Government adopt the French proposals—those proposals which they had said it was impossible to accept last year. The right hon. Gentleman and the Chancellor of the Exchequer strongly maintained that the proposals they had made at the Conference were the only 707 proposals which could be submitted to the House. Now, all those proposals had been set aside by the Government simply to obtain the friendship of a nation which had shown lately, by every means in its power, that it had not the interests of this country at heart. His hon. Friend had shown most clearly that the French had been intriguing ever since we had been in occupation in Egypt. Indeed, the French, by sailing away when Alexandria was bombarded, declared that the Dual Control was at an end, and that the sole power and authority, especially after Tel-el-Kebir, was left in the hands of Her Majesty's Government. How had our Government fulfilled the trust that was then confided in them? Never, in the history of any Government, had so many mistakes been made as had been made by Her Majesty's Government in dealing with the concerns of Egypt. Never before had there been a Party sitting behind the Treasury Bench so unwilling to support the voice of the Government as that which sat there at that moment. It was useless and idle for Ministers to ignore the fact that the opponents of the Amendment who would support them in this division were diametrically opposed to their views. ["No!"] He knew whence that solitary "No" proceeded; but he repeated his assertion on the authority of many who were going to vote for the Government. Had the Government policy been approved of there would have sat behind the Treasury Bench a far greater phalanx than that which listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He thought the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a day or two ago, was even more delusive than that of the Prime Minister that night in regard to International Control. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said there was not in the Agreement anything which would allow of an International Control. But, upon the Papers being studied, there appeared to be nothing to show that, in certain eventualities, an International Control might not be set up. The Prime Minister that night had signally failed to show why it was that the European Powers were so excessively anxious to have something to do with this Loan. The truth was that the Powers expected that by entering into this Agreement they would have as good a right to interfere in the internal affairs 708 of Egypt as this country. Never in the history of this country had the interests of England been more thoroughly sacrificed than by the present Government in the present Arrangement. Her Majesty's Government seemed to forget, but the country would not forget, all the sacrifices they had made, all the English blood that had been shed, and all the treasure that had been spent for the sake of Egypt; but the result of the present Convention would be that England, after all its sacrifices, would find itself with no greater authority in Egypt than any one of those Powers which would guarantee this Loan. The Prime Minister had pressed the House of Commons to give an answer at once in this matter. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) could not forget that it took the Prime Minister three months to decide whether the Expedition to rescue General Gordon should proceed from Suakin to Berber, or from Cairo to Khartoum; and he could not forget the delay shown by the French Government in giving an answer to the proposal of this country. It was most humiliating to read the Papers and find our Ambassador, week by week, and day by day, and almost hour by hour, pressing M. Ferry for an answer. When we suppressed the rebellion in Egypt, we alone were in a position to dictate terms with regard to the finances of the country. Had we proposed fair and reasonable terms, as we ought to have done, they would have been accepted by all the Powers of Europe. But the one thing which the Government seemed to desire was to get out of this difficulty. The Prime Minister, from first to last, had hated this Egyptian Question. From beginning to end of it he had not grappled with it. He had not looked from day to day what steps it would be necessary to take; and the position in which he was now placed was the consequence of the action which he had taken. The consequence had been that a Dual Control had been going on in Egypt, and a pretence that the Khedive's Government was a real and absolute Government. The right hon. Gentleman knew as well as could be that the Government of this country was the only absolute ruler in Egypt, and that the Khedive was simply kept in power by means of English bayonets, and by the authority of the British Government. Never had this country been placed in a more difficult position. 709 The House of Commons was, in fact, ordered to give an answer to this question at once. He did not consider it to be either complimentary or respectful to the House of Commons that it should be called on thus suddenly to give an answer to this question. The financiers who had found the money for Egypt in the past would have no difficulty, knowing, as they did, the condition of affairs, in continuing the supplies of money, supposing that this Agreement was not passed. Of that he had no hope, seeing how the Party opposite voted against their own opinions; but, at the same time, he maintained that, in the interests of this country, it would be a wise and prudent course if this Agreement should not be ratified by the House of Commons. Upon the whole Egyptian Question he felt most strongly. We went to Egypt for a particular purpose—the protection of the Suez Canal. Though lightly touched upon by the Prime Minister, that was of vital importance. It was of vital importance that we should never at any time, or by any means, be excluded from the Suez Canal; but that we should at all times go through with our ships—mercantile or men-of-war. Were we, the greatest Naval Power, to allow ourselves to be deprived of our strength at this particular time? Were we certain that no other country, in the event of war, would not stop the traffic of the Canal to our great detriment? He believed that by bringing forward this Agreement they were adopting a course which was detrimental to the best interests of the country; and believing, as he did, that that would be the result of their action, he should most certainly vote against the proposal of the Government.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
, who was precluded by the Forms of the House from moving the following Amendment standing in his name, to add to Mr. Gladstone's Motion—But this House wishes it to be understood that in accepting the Convention it comes under no obligation, direct or implied, either to make good any deficit (apart from the annuity guaranteed) which may occur in the financial administration of Egypt as settled by the Annexes to the Declaration of 17th March 1885, or to afford Military protection to Egypt at the expense of the taxpayers of this Country during the two years for which the Powers accept the distribution of the Revenues made by Annex 2; or for any other period, except as Parliament may from time to time determine,710 said, that he did not approve of the financial arrangement. He disapproved it; but, at the same time, he should vote for it, as the less evil of the two. He thought he was not liable to the imputation of being called a Party man. He believed that if the interests of the country required that they should turn out the Government, or that they should negative this Convention, he should be ready to vote against it; but he admitted, although disapproving the Convention, that the affair had gone so far that a great deal of confusion would arise were the House to negative it; therefore he intended to support the Government. His principal reason for disapproving the Arrangement was because he believed that it placed another heavy burden on Egypt. The Chancellor of the Exchequer assumed that bankruptcy was a terrible evil for Egypt, and said they must avoid it. If that was the case, then he (Sir George Campbell) was free to admit that the right hon. Gentleman had made the best arrangement that was possible—he could not say to avoid, but to stave off for a time that bankruptcy. He thought, however, that bankruptcy was the best thing that could possibly happen to Egypt. He had never been able to see why Egypt should not go into that comfortable and easy kind of bankruptcy which much greater Powers had gone into. The greatest Powers of Europe had said—"It is not convenient for us to pay our debts at the present moment; we must postpone them to a future time;" and England had adopted that course herself upon a time. He thought that the Prime Minister, in the course of his speech, did not pay so much attention as he ought to have done to the difference of other countries with the case of Egypt. It had to be remembered that the Law of Liquidation in Egypt made a difference. Under that law more than half of the gross revenues were assigned to the creditors of Egypt. Unfortunately, too, this country had agreed to continue the International Tribunals for seven years more, by which the Government was enslaved. Those Tribunals were, indeed, an effective International Control over Egypt, and he desired to get rid of them. He suggested to the House a means by which Egypt might become bankrupt with ease and comfort. 711 American railways, for instance, were works of immense importance to that country. When any one of them became bankrupt, it was put into the hands of receivers, and the railway went on as before. In this case, however, the up-keep of the railway was the first charge on the revenues, and the creditors formed the second charge, the latter of whom got as much as the balance would admit. That was the kind of bankruptcy which he should like to see in regard to Egypt. Under this Convention for settling the finances of Egypt the matter was entirely different. We had undertaken to run the concern at our own risk. The lip-keep of the country was to be the second charge on the revenues, while the creditors of the country were to constitute the first charge. That, he maintained, was not a satisfactory state of things. Under this arrangement there was an elaborate provision for disposing of the surplus revenue; but nothing whatever was said about a deficit. That seemed to him to be a farcical arrangement. They had the greatest reason to fear that there might be next year, as in the case of past years, a considerable deficit. One of the most radical defects of the Convention seemed to him to be its want of sufficient provision for the military defence of Egypt. It could not be defended upon the present expenditure allowed for military purposes. Notwithstanding what had been already said, he believed that the 6.500 British Forces were costing £1,300,000, and even if they got rid of the Soudan, 6,500 men would not, he thought, suffice to defend Egypt with hordes of lawless tribes at its borders, and they would have to increase that number, and to expend £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 per annum, to maintain the military defences of Egypt. Therefore, he had put on the Paper an Amendment, which, however, owing to the Forms of the House, he was unable to move. Although he must accept this Convention, he should not in his heart of hearts believe in it. It appeared that they would be practically Bound by the Convention to stay in Egypt and to run a bankrupt concern at a certain loss for two years, and probably also for a third year, while an inquiry was taking place, and until a definitive result was arrived at. But he hoped before the debate ended that the 712 Government would tell them that they would not be bound, as he feared they would be, by those onerous engagements. The position of the Powers was this—that under the Law of Liquidation and the establishment of the International Tribunals they had an enormous control over Egypt; and as long as the Powers got their money, and as long as the Law of Liquidation was maintained, and the Guaranteed, the Unified, the Privileged, and some other Debts were punctually repaid, the Powers, he thought, would not want to interfere. But the moment we got into other difficulties International Control would arise. We, as a sort of receiver, were proposing to contract to run the bankrupt concern for a certain time; and if we wanted to avoid International Control we must make good any deficit that might arise, and impose on our own taxpayers an enormously heavy burden to protect Egypt and her finances by an army of soldiers. He should be very happy indeed to suppose that the Prime Minister was right in thinking that we were advancing to the day when Egypt would be independent, and when we could quit that country; but he feared that that day would not come very soon while those foreign loans rested on that unfortunate people. He wanted Egypt to be independent and to have a fair chance; but he also wished this country to be independent, and not to be entangled with those heavy obligations involving a great loss of life and a great expenditure of treasure.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, that this kind of discussion on Egypt occurred once a month—once a lunar month—for it was 27 days precisely since the last occasion on which it was before them. He doubted the patriotism of those Gentlemen who said that that Convention gave the Powers a Control which they did not have before, and which Her Majesty's Government contended that it did not give them. In considering how he should vote on the question now under discussion, he came to the conclusion that if he wanted to vote only for malice and revenge upon the Conservative Party he would give them his vote in the impending division; because he could not conceive of a greater misfortune to that Party than that they should be obliged to take over the management of that question de novo before the 713 Powers of Europe. Did they think, under present circumstances, they would obtain better terms? He did not say the terms were what this country would like; but they could not always get what they liked, as they had to deal with other Powers nearly as great as themselves. Were the Conservative Party, if it came into power next week, prepared to defy the Powers of Europe? [Sir JOSEPH M'KENNA: Yes; they are.] His hon. Friend said they were; but he hoped they were not quite so mad. There was a period when the question might, perhaps, have been solved by our taking virtual possession of Egypt; but that time had passed. Egypt might have declared herself bankrupt to defeat the foreign bondholders and Shylocks; but the point now to be considered was whether that Convention was a reasonable solution of the present difficulty. If the Government were open to such censure as this Motion implied, it would have been the duty of the responsible Leaders of the Opposition to move this Amendment. He desired to protest against the unpatriotic conduct of those who made this Motion. The position of affairs was such that there was no alternative to passing the Convention except a very much worse one; and, that being so, he would support the Government in this matter.
§ MR. MONK
said, that while he did not look upon the terms of the Agreement as altogether satisfactory, there was no counter-proposition before the House, so that he had no hesitation in supporting the Government. The hon. Member for Portsmouth had made out a very lame case in support of his Amendment. For his own part, he objected to that portion of the Amendment which condemned the collateral arrangement for regulating the International position of the Suez Canal. He took the strongest exception also to the words in the Amendment that "there had been no previous communication to Parliament" in respect of the Canal; and pointed out that they had had now for over two years the letter of Lord Granville of January 23, 1883, laying down eight bases for the neutralization of the Suez Canal, and the matter had over and over again received the attention of all the Great Powers. He believed the whole world was agreed upon those bases; and both during the Franco-German and 714 Russo-Turkish Wars vessels of the opposing Powers met in the Canal and saluted each other. That part of the Amendment, he contended, had no weight whatever. Unnecessary delay had arisen in consequence of the unreasonable conduct of France in this matter, and, in part, also through the action of Germany. One remarkable feature in the published Correspondence was the unveiled hostility of Prince Bismarck towards England. After stating that he did not consider Egyptian questions to have much interest for Germany, he went on to say that—The conduct of the British Government in Colonial matters had made Germany less desirous of assisting England in the Egyptian Question.The Great Powers, with one exception, had shown no desire to aid Her Majesty's Government. The manifest desire of M. Ferry was to re-establish French control. For his part, he preferred the original proposals of November 29; but, under the circumstances, he thought that the proposals of the House wore of a nature to commend themselves to Parliament and to the country; and unless there was some better means than had yet been presented to them of meeting the payment of the indemnities and the other liabilities of the Egyptian Government, he hoped the House would give its cordial support to the proposal of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. ELTON
maintained that we had a distinct and superior position in Egypt to that of any other Power. The Prime Minister's ingenious and elaborate argument as to whether or not there was any right of interference arising out of the International Guarantee was an excellent exercise of logic, but quite irrelevant to the point at issue. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that it was absolutely necessary that this Convention should be carried out; and he had attempted to put compulsion upon Parliament in a way they were not accustomed to. The Prime Minister would not say that the bankers would not renew the Loan; but anyone acquainted with the circumstances and the facts of the case must see that the bankers would be most happy to renew it. With regard to the tribute due to the Sultan, it was quite true that the liability to pay that tribute constituted an organic part of the constitution of Egypt; and if there was any 715 default in April next in regard to the tribute, there would be a breach of the Firman establishing the hereditary Khediviate. He was of opinion that if, without any collusion or unfair dealing of any kind, the Firman were broken up, it would be a good tiling for this country; as he thought that England could manage Egypt under the Suzerainty of the Forte better than it was managed at the present time. He had no doubt that this tribute could be paid in April, and that there were many persons who would be willing to advance the sum. The question that presented itself to his mind was whether Egypt was in a state of bankruptcy or not. He was not a financier, but he had a right to form an opinion on that point out of the Blue Books; and he thought, as far as Lord Northbrook's Report was concerned, no state of bankruptcy existed. He found, for example, that £500,000 was charged for projected architectural improvements at Alexandria, and £450,000 was deducted for improvements in the collection of the Land Tax. Why such an item as the latter should come into the accounts at all it was impossible to say; because if the proposed improvements were effected, the improvements would very soon bring back the amount expended in obtaining them. Lord Northbrook, moreover, said nothing in explanation of his reasons for not proposing that the amount should be raised in the ordinary way. Lord Northbrook had loaded his demand for a loan to the extent of more than £2,000,000 in excess of what was necessary. After going through all Lord Northbrook's figures in relation to the Suez Canal, he found there remained a balance of £49,000, of which he could make him a present towards finding the funds necessary for the improved collection of the Laud Tax. There was not that case of Egyptian bankruptcy which the noble Lord represented. No doubt there might be a slightly involved condition of affairs, and he did not think that the Government had managed the country at all well; but he was of opinion that, with care, it might be made a going concern. He denied, however, that the figures before them showed that Egypt was in a bankrupt condition.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, it' was clear, from the speech of the Prime Minister that evening, and his former de- 716 clarations, that he did not consider this Convention desirable in itself; but advocated it on the ground that its adoption in the existing state of things was the lesser of two evils. But whose fault was it that they should have to adopt the lesser evil? The Government had been at the head of affairs for the last four years, and to tell us that we ought now to choose the lesser evil was hardly to be expected from a statesman. The fact was the original fault was this—that the Prime Minister, when he came into power, did not break with and reverse the policy of his Predecessors, and do that which his speeches in Mid-Lothian led people to expect. There were two great heresies in our policy with regard to Egypt—one political, and the other financial. The political heresy was that we insisted on putting up a Khedive and maintaining him in power against the wishes of his subjects. The result was, that we were absolutely hated in Egypt; and wherever we were not hated, we were regarded with contempt. The financial heresy was this—that we always insisted, in our treatment of Egyptian finance, that the payment of interest upon the Debt should come first, and the expenses of administration come second. That was contrary to the primary laws of finance, which so distinguished a financial authority as the right hon. Gentleman himself would certainly acknowledge. The result had been over taxation, that we had put off every species of reform, and that there was a deficit. The true security of a public debt was the excess of revenue over the cost of administration. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: Duly economized.] There should be due economy certainly; but it was not for a foreign country to step in and insist upon this due economy, because that would be mixing itself up with the affairs of another country. The risk that a lender incurred would be that the revenue might not be sufficient to pay the debt, and that the administration might not be conducted economically. In either ease the lender had no right to come to his own country and ask it to interfere. High interest meant bad security. The view that he had put forward was that which was entertained by Viscount Palmerston and other English statesmen. All that could be fairly claimed for the bondholders 717 was, that if there were an excess of revenue it should go to them. He was surprised on looking at the Convention that it recognized the position of the Powers of Europe with regard to Egypt. The Debt was guaranteed by the Powers. We offered a guarantee of ourselves; but the Powers said—"We insist in joining in the guarantee." Why did they insist? Obviously, because they wished to place themselves in precisely the same position as we were in with regard to Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman said that this guarantee gave no special right of interference; that we had guaranteed the Debt of Turkey, Greece, and our Colonies, and yet we did not claim to interfere. But in Egypt a special Law of Liquidation was passed, and the Powers claimed the right to interfere with its affairs because Egypt could not pay the bondholders. Germany and France claimed that right, in order that the interest of the bondholders should be secure. It followed, therefore, that if Egypt was not in a position to pay the interest of the bondholders, the Powers might interfere still more. The Prime Minister said that our right in Egypt was not precisely legal, but was a moral and indeterminate right. That was exactly the right of the Powers; it was a moral and indeterminate right. But that was not all. It was agreed by the Convention that in case Egypt should not be able to resume full payment of the Debt in two years, there should be an International Commission of Inquiry. The Prime Minister had taken a sanguine view of the future. He said that wonders were about to happen in Egypt, and that at the end of two years this interference would not be necessary. We had, however, been in Egypt four years, and the state of its finances was now worse than when we went there. It was reasonable to suppose that in the next two years what had occurred there was likely to occuragain. Why, Ministers and the Powers anticipated this, because they had expressly said that Egypt might be allowed to have a floating Debt of £1,000,000? Why? Because they knew that in the best circumstances Egypt would not be able to meet the expenses put upon it? It was a country in which there were bad years as well as good; and therefore it might be taken as a reasonable 718 probability that the financial investigation sanctioned by the Convention would take place in two years. Then there was another point. Why were we to be called on to pay large amounts on account of Egypt? We were advancing money for irrigation works and other purposes. If we were going to annex the country for the sake of our Possessions in India, it would be intelligible; but the Government said we were going to leave it at the end of two years. We were going to do the dirty work of Europe; and at the end of two years, after showing ourselves to have been good caretakers, and paying all this money, we were to clear out and leave Europe to reap the benefit. We were maintaining a garrison in Egypt the cost of which was about £700,000 per annum. The cost of these troops, whose duties were purely administrative, and who were really acting as gendarmerie, ought surely to be defrayed out of Egyptian funds. It was said in some quarters that we were about to sacrifice our interests in the Suez Canal? That was a mistake. Gentlemen who made that assertion feared that in time of war the Canal might be closed against our vessels. Fear of that kind, however, was quite causeless; for the authorities at the War Office and Admiralty concurred in saying that in case of war we should not use the Canal at all, the route by the Cape being preferable, as it would be impossible to convoy merchandize along the Mediterranean. He was in favour of the neutralization of Egypt, or its conversion into a sort of Belgium. Franco would be so glad to see us leave Egypt that she would readily pledge herself not to go there if we pledged ourselves not to return. They had been told that the Resolution before the Committee was really a Vote of Confidence. Of confidence in whom? Certainly not in Her Majesty's Ministers, for the Agreement before the Committee was the French Agreement. They were, therefore, called upon to propose a Vote of Confidence in the French Government; and if the vote was carried England would have to do what she had protested against on two occasions, and would supply the executive for carrying out the French scheme, unremunerated by any benefit derived from it. But an adverse vote might put right hon. Gentlemen opposite into 719 Office, and their management of affairs would be worse, if possible, than that of the Government. Their view would be that we should remain in Egypt for ever; and as Europe had now decided that we must not take Egypt, the policy of the Opposition might result in an European war. Not liking, therefore, to give a vote either to the Government or the Opposition, he should abstain from taking any part in the division.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he did not desire to give a silent vote on this important subject. The Convention was another phase in the Egyptian question which at the present time was so greatly distressing the friends of the Government throughout the country. It was the natural sequence of the original blunder of interfering at all in the internal affairs of Egypt. He felt inclined to agree with a good deal that had fallen from the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce); but, looking at the Amendment itself which he had moved, it did not disclose any alternate policy to that of the Government, and therefore he and those who sat below the Ministerial Gangway were placed in a very difficult position. He felt sure that the Government had done all they could to secure as favourable terms as possible for the people of Egypt; but the Money Markets of Europe had, as on many previous occasions, affected the policy of Europe. There appeared to be but one pleasant feature about the Convention, and that was the assertion that foreigners in Egypt were in future to be taxed. He was not sure, however, that that would be carried out to any considerable extent, for there again there would be the same influence to encounter. No one could enter into conversation with foreigners of whatever nationality in Egypt without feeling that they were there to exploit and spoil the country. As to the reduction of 5 per cent on the coupon, that really did not amount to much; for if, after two years, as the result of good management, there was a surplus in the finances of Egypt, it would be devoted, not to Egyptian purposes, but would be handed over to the bondholders to repay them for this reduction. Egypt, in fact, was like an estate sequestrated for the benefit of creditors, and we were put in possession as a sort of bailiff, to get what we could to meet the demands of bond- 720 holders and speculators. We should never have attempted to do such a thing with a powerful nation. The International Guarantee was a new weapon put into the hands of the financial Powers of Europe, and he feared that it would, like the Dual Control, be a financial control first, and a political control afterwards, for whoever controlled the finances of Egypt would control her political affairs. The £4,000,000 indemnity for the bombardment of Alexandria ought to be paid by this country, for England had been throughout on the wrong side. He acknowledged that if the Opposition were in power and had their will in Egypt they would be consistent in annexing the country. This was a proper thing to do from their point of view; but he disbelieved its expediency, and refused to assist in the accomplishment of it. The better this Convention was understood in the country the greater became its unpopularity. At the same time, however, Radical Members were in a difficult position; it was a case of frying-pan versus fire, of the whip instead of the scorpion, and of Lord Salisbury instead of the Prime Minister. No doubt there was a great deal of difficulty about the subject; but one was driven to the conclusion that the Prime Minister was the safer of the two. He was surprised to see in the meetings which had taken place throughout the country how much there remained of fear of the foreign policy of Lord Salisbury, even after this lapse of time. He had read that in America there was a religious community, in which there was a minister, unattached, whom they called "a satisfying minister," because whenever the congregation was dissatisfied with their regular minister they sent for him. The congregation, however, became so frightened at his doctrine, and so displeased with everything he did, that they straight away became satisfied with their own minister and never complained any more. This was just the position of the Liberal Party in England; while they were dissatisfied with every phase of this Egyptian business they were afraid of "a satisfying Ministry." They might be said to be between the Devil and the deep sea, and had to choose as to which was the least of two evils. He, therefore, intended to vote for the Government. [Ironical cheers.] Hon. Mem- 721 bers were no doubt right in cheering. They were forced into this position; it was a choice of evils; and if the Government were wise they would, while it was yet time, make a complete retirement from their position in Egypt. There was this justification, however, for the course which he hoped the Radical Party would take in this matter. The Government had shown an intense desire to make a Convention of a much better character than any that had been previously made. It had been their desire to be unselfish, as far as England was concerned, in their dealings with Egypt, and they were the only Government in Europe which kept its eye on the Fellaheen of Egypt with a desire to do them good.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he thought the House and the country would be very much amused at the conflicting reasons which the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway had given for voting with the Government on this occasion. Why did the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken think it right to support the Government? He acknowledged that he was between the Devil and the deep blue sea, though what his difficulty was he did not make clearly apparent. He seemed to have an inherent dread of Lord Salisbury. This was always said by the Liberal Party; but he really believed that it was only a pretext for their constituents, and that, in reality, they had a far greater dread of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. It was not for him (Mr. Onslow) to defend the noble Marquess; but, at all events, he thought that a very large body of persons, not only inside the House of Commons but outside of it, were prepared to confide in Lord Salisbury in preference to the Prime Minister. It had been said that the whole of this business was owing to the Dual Control, and to the action which the previous Government had taken in this affair. It might be all very well to throw the burden of the charge on a previous Government; but he wished to call the attention of the House to a despatch from Lord Granville to Sir Edward Malet on the subject of the Dual Control. On the 4th of November. 1881, Lord Granville said in a despatch that it could not be too clearly understood that England desired no partizan Ministry in Egypt; that in the opinion 722 of the Government a partizan Ministry was neither calculated to be of service to the country nor to Ministers; and that it could only tend to alienate the population from the true allegiance to their Sovereign. This was exactly the position now of the Government in Egypt. We were at the present time advising the Khedive of Egypt, and the whole foundation of Egyptian Government depended upon England. It was, therefore, idle for the Prime Minister and his supporters to come forward and say that the present state of affairs was solely due to the Dual Control, framed at the instigation of the late Government, when in the last part of this same despatch Her Majesty's Government thoroughly approved of the arrangement. Many of them believed that when the first shot was fired at Alexandria Egypt ought to have been ours. The Government ought to have recognized that when once the bombardment of Alexandria began it was their duty, not only in the interest of the people of Egypt but also of this country, to have proclaimed a protectorate over the country. They would have had the support of Germany in that policy, and France would have been the only Power that would have objected, and even her objections would have been only temporary. For the Dual Control of England and France they had substituted another kind of dual control—namely, that of the Khedive and of Sir Evelyn Baring, which could never work satisfactorily. The Government of Egypt at present was only maintained by British bayonets, and once those bayonets were removed a worse revolution even than that of Arabi would ensue. Egypt would never be governed by an Egyptian; it must always be under the control of some European Power, and that Power must be England. As the Prime Minister had said, we were the natural advisers of Egypt. But we were also the moral and legal advisers of that country. It was idle, therefore, for the Prime Minister to say that for the next two years the Egyptian Government would be able to do as they liked. As long as we were in their country everything of importance must be regulated by the guiding hand of England, even during the next two years. We were in Egypt from the force of circumstances, and it was impossible that we could 723 leave the country, or that we should ever be able to do so. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the former subsidies to various Foreign Powers, but there was no analogy between those cases and that of the proposed Loan to Egypt; and the Multiple Control they were now constituting, nominally for financial matters only, would involve them in great difficulties with the other Powers before the end of three years. After five years of the rule of the present Ministry they were told that Egypt was in a state of bankruptcy. It was puerile for the Government to blame their Predecessors for a condition of affairs due entirely to their own weak vacillation and shrinking from responsibility. The finances of Egypt would show no recuperative force under the present system of administration, but must proceed from bad to worse. The Opposition might be asked what was their policy, and how would they remedy that state of matters in Egypt? It would be difficult to remedy it; but he could not help thinking that if the Government were of one mind there would be found some means of making Egypt a prosperous country. So far as he could see, the only way for Her Majesty's Government to get out of the difficulty in which they were placed was by frankly admitting that they had made a mistake, by undoing all that they had done, and unsaying all that they had said, by letting all Europe know that their past policy having failed, they would adopt for the future a firmer and a better policy. Unless they took a strong and a resolute line the administration of Egypt at the end of two years would be taken out of their control, and their road to India would be in the hands of other Powers.
§ MR. ALBERT GREY
said, he must congratulate the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow) on having taking up 20 or 25 minutes of the time of the Committee without approaching in a single sentence the real question under consideration. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had argued that our policy in Egypt should be directed by the necessity of our interest, and our interest alone, without any regard to those obligations which we had, by our past policy, incurred. For himself, he believed that the policy of duty and the policy of interest were one, and 724 that a nation could not afford, any more than an individual, to regulate its action and its policy by purely selfish considerations without any regard to the requirements of duty. The hon. Member for Northampton had advocated intervention in Egypt in 1882, on the ground that it was absolutely necessary to maintain a supreme and paramount influence over the Suez Canal, and that it was impossible to maintain that influence unless we had a paramount influence in Cairo; and he referred to that Jingo episode in the political life of the hon. Member in order to remind the Committee that many of those who now talked so lightly about scuttling immediately out of Egypt were responsible and deliberate parties to the policy of intervention. Having, in pursuance of the policy of the hon. Member for Northampton, interfered; having thrust an alien rule upon the backs of a reluctant people; having turned Egypt topsey-turvey; having, in the name of English interests, poured out Egyptian blood like water; having upset her institutions and checked the growth of national aspirations; having carried our hesitating but interfering finger into every department of Egyptian administration, he maintained we could not, without incurring lasting dishonour, leave Egypt to stew in the juice which we ourselves had cooked. We were bound by strong moral obligations, consequent on our own acts, to do our utmost to protect the poor Fellaheen from grinding tyranny and oppression. To accept the propositions of the hon. Member for Northampton would be to deliver Egypt at once over to the Multiple Control; and the whole object of the Multiple Control would be to secure not the happiness of the Fellaheen, but the full payment of the interest on the Egyptian securities. Let them recognize that the abandonment of Egypt to the Multiple Control meant, in addition to other grave and serious objections, a rule in the interest of the bondholder, and bondholder alone. It was the duty of England to endeavour to secure that if Egypt was to be governed in the interest of the bondholders it should be governed, as far as possible, in the interest of the Fellaheen as well. International obligations made it absolutely necessary that the interest on the Egyptian securities should be paid; and England stepped in and said that if the Egyptian obliga- 725 tions required that, English honour also required that the well-being of the Egyptian Fellaheen should be looked after. ["No, no!"] [Mr. JESSE COLLINGS: That was a secondary matter.] The establishment of a stable Government, which would leave the Fellaheen in a state of security and prosperity, was of primary importance. For his own part, he believed there was no other way of securing the Fellaheen good government than by the Khedive undertaking to carry on the Government of Egypt strictly according to the advice and under the guidance of Her Majesty's Government. The only way to avert the Multiple Control was to secure the full payment of Egyptian securities, and the only means of accomplishing that was by establishing in Egypt a strong and vigorous Administration, which would be able to hold the balance even, and to carry out great public works so urgently wanted for increasing the productive power of the country and ensuring the greater happiness and prosperity of the Egyptian people. To set up a Government of that character was not the work of a moment; it was the work of time. Prince Bismarck had suggested that we should be the leaseholders of the Sultan in Egypt. Why should not that suggestion be adopted? Why should we not stand to Europe in the position of tenants, the duration of whoso lease would depend on the time it might take to repay the £9,000,000, the interest of which we were about to guarantee? He was aware that Gentlemen opposite interpreted the Agreement to mean the certain establishment of the Multiple Control. That was not his opinion. He understood the Agreement to mean this—that so long as the interests on the Egyptian securities continued to be fully paid, Europe would not interfere with English administration in Egypt; but as Boon as they were not fully paid, then immediately the Multiple Control would be set up. In short, by the Agreement we were in the position of tenants of Europe in Egypt. The rent we had to pay was the interest on Egyptian securities. We were to have a 5 per cent reduction on that rent for two years, and afterwards we should have to pay the full rent. At the end of two years, if we were unable to pay the full rent our European landlords would interfere; but if the full rent was forthcoming, whether 726 out of Egyptian or English Revenues, we should be allowed to continue in our tenancy in Egypt without any interference on their part. So when it was said this Agreement lets in the Multiple Control, he answered—"That depends on the English people. If they decide that it would be better to pay the sum which Egyptian Revenues cannot afford out of English Revenues in order to keep out the Multiple Control they can do it." That they would do it he could not doubt. When they looked back upon the profuse expenditure of blood and treasure in Egypt they could say, at all events we have abolished the Dual Control, and thus averted the great probability of a war with France in which we would have lost 100 times more blood and treasure. If the people were ready to condone great sacrifices because they had brought about the abolition of the Dual Control, surely they would be ready to incur small sacrifices to avert the far more formidable danger of the Multiple Control. He (Mr. Albert Grey) believed, when it was fairly put before them, that the people of England would be willing to avert the Multiple Control by the payment of English money if the Egyptian Revenues were not sufficient. As, then, they had the power of paying the Egyptian securities, and so keeping out the Multiple Control, let them accept the Agreement. There might be much in the Agreement which was not palatable to them—much which might give them, as Members of Parliament, legitimate cause for complaint, because of the way in which it had been brought before the House; but this country was admittedly in the middle of a grave crisis, and he would, therefore, say—"Inasmuch as there is nothing in the Agreement which sots up the Multiple Control, if England secures the full payment of the interest on Egyptian bonds, accept that which you cannot refuse, except by incurring grave and unknown dangers."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that the Government would, no doubt, receive the announcement of the last speaker, that he would vote for them, with great satisfaction; but it was a question whether they would regard the speech itself with equal satisfaction. The hon. Member approved of this Convention because it would do what the Government did not wish to do—namely, 727 because it would keep us in Egypt for an indefinite period. The hon. Member differed from the Opposition in his views of this Convention; though he objected, as they did, to the Multiple Control. He appeared to think that the only danger we ran arose from that part of the Agreement which made a Commission necessary at the end of two years if the 5 per cent reductions had to be continued. But that was only one of the objections of the Opposition; their chief objection was to the joint guarantee, upon which the hon. Member had not touched at all. The five years during which the present Government had controlled the Empire had been rich in every species of failure and disaster, and it was difficult to say in what kind of administrative action their conduct had been most disastrous. On the whole, he was inclined to think they had failed most lamentably and grievously in their diplomacy. When he recollected the ludicrous fiasco of the Suez Canal, the abortive Conference they summoned in London last year, and the melancholy Agreement which they were now asked to vote, he was justified in saying that, on the whole, their diplomatic failures eclipsed their legislative and their military failures, and a stronger thing it was impossible to say. The speech of the Prime Minister this evening was the only one which attempted a serious defence of the Government proposal. It was a curious and interesting fact that in 1855 he was the most strenuous opponent of the Anglo-French guarantee of the Turkish Loan, which was now cited as a precedent for the proposal before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman opposed that guarantee in three speeches of great length. In one of them he said—I trust, that as this loan is the first, so it will be the last of the sort to which this House will, under any circumstances and on any considerations, give its assent.A little later on he said—It is not the worst of a guarantee that if Turkey does not pay we shall have to pay for her—I had almost said that is the best of it. The worst of this guarantee is, that all the guaranteeing Powers acquire a political hold upon Turkey, and if it were possible to put so dangerous a proposition into one form more dangerous than another, my right hon. Friend has succeeded in discovering exactly that which is the most dangerous."—(3 Hansard,  1475.)That was what the Prime Minister said 728 in 1855, and yet this was the precedent quoted in favour of the proposal now before the Committee. The Prime Minister had said that no power was given by the Convention to interfere in the affairs of Egypt, and he had quoted a large number of precedents to prove that position. Yet every one of those precedents was before him in 1855, and they were actually quoted by him in the very speeches from which he had just quoted to the House a trenchant and conclusive condemnation of his present policy. The right hon. Gentleman rested his case upon the fact that no technical right of interference was given by the Agreement; but was it a technical provision alone which could give that right? On what was our right of interference in Egypt now founded? Was it on Protocols, on Parchments, or Treaties? The Prime Minister had said our right of interference was a right arising absolutely from the absolute necessities of the situation. If that were so, what became of the argument that no technical right was given by the Agreement? By the admitted facts of the case there might be rights, legitimate and absolute, not founded on any technical plea, but arising out of the force and logic of circumstances. It was quite true that in the case of Turkey and in the other cases no interference of the kind apprehended had occurred. But none of the countries were, in the slightest degree, in a position similar to that of Egypt. Every one knew that the Foreign Powers—and Prance especially—had been jealous of each other's influence in Egypt, and anxious to increase their own. What parallel was there between the case of Egypt and the cases in which nobody desired to interfere? If, as the Prime Minister contended, this Convention merely gave the European Powers the right of being called upon to pay somebody else's debts, why were they all so anxious to become parties to it? It would be more than infantile innocence to suppose that the Powers who had risked European complications of the gravest kind, had broken up a Conference, and risked Egyptian bankruptcy, had done all those things with no object in view. What, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, was that object? Until there was an answer to that question, until the diplomatic acumen of the Government enabled them to 729 fathom that problem, it would be open to the Opposition to suspect that, whatever view the Government might take of this Instrument, a different view was taken by Foreign Governments. If ever there was a deficiency they would not be slow to put forward claims which it suited the Government now to deride. Let them not forget the difference between the motives of the European Powers and those of this country. Europe was interested chiefly in paying the bondholders; England was influenced chiefly by the desire to preserve the route to India, to improve the position of Egypt, and to stimulate its internal prosperity and its external commerce. Our interests in that country were not financial, they were commercial; and the commercial interests of England were coincident with the interests of the Fellaheen. It might suit other Powers to grind down the unhappy people, but it would not suit us; our interests were best served by bringing back prosperity to the Nile. The Members of the Government who were most earnest in pressing this Convention upon us were those who, in times past, expended most energy in telling us how England was already sinking under the weight of Empire, and in asserting that we could not afford to add one scruple to the burden under which we were tottering. Their practice squared very strangely with their theory. They did not, indeed, add to the Empire, but they added to its obligations; and they seemed to think it was perfectly consistent with their principles to throw the greatest burdens upon our resources, provided only that no profit whatever was reaped by this country from the transaction. Of this remarkable principle of action our Egyptian policy in general, and the policy of this Convention in particular, supplied an admirable example. Egypt was as great a responsibility as if it belonged to us, and as small a gain as if it belonged to the French. After the speeches delivered that night by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), and his hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey), who represented two independent sections of the Radical Party, he had small hope that the Committee would reject the proposal of the Government; but he was certain that if they did not reject it, many Members on that side of 730 the House, and many Members sitting on the opposite Bench, would live to regret the decision they had come to.
§ MR. M'COAN
said, he had carefully endeavoured to form an honest judgment on this Convention, and the result was utterly and without reservation condemnatory of the bargain it embodied. How legitimate, therefore, was his satisfaction when he heard the ablest possible apologist of the measure make the speech which the Prime Minister had delivered that night. That speech was the weakest he had ever heard the right hon. Gentleman deliver in that House, and to his own mind utterly failed to justify the action of the Government in consenting to such a compact. The result of the Convention would be to set up a Multiple Control, with the certainty of consequences which, much as he had been opposed to it hitherto, now more than half converted him to the policy of "rescue and retire." The present bargain was a practical reversal of the decision announced by Lord Granville at the Conference last year, and an acceptance en bloc of the French scheme then proposed. The Prime Minister alleged that International Law gave to a lender no right of interfering with the borrowing State. That might be so; but he failed to see the relevancy of the axiom to the case of Egypt. That country stood in a peculiar and, indeed, unique position in its relations to Europe. If there was no latent desire on the part of the European Powers to interfere in Egyptian affairs, why did they volunteer a joint and perfectly needless responsibility for the proposed Loan? Their guarantee was of about as much value as would be the endorsement of half-a-dozen insolvent grocers on a bill of Rothschilds. He felt humiliated beyond measure in consequence of the position they were now holding in Egypt. They had abdicated a position in that country of great influence, which had been obtained at the cost of millions of money and of thousands of English lives. He feared, however, there was nothing left for them but to accept the position. In the future, if this Convention were agreed to, they would simply be bailiffs for the bondholders, on no higher level of right or influence than any one of the other parties to this Convention—a measure of surrender against which he, for one, could not but protest. His own vote that night would 731 not be a free one, nor would it be given on the apparent issue before the House. The real one was now again the same issue that had been, raised upon the Vote of Censure with regard to the Egyptian policy of the Government. The Prime Minister had that night again said that hon. Members would be free to vote as they thought fit; but that if the Government were placed in a minority they would go out. That was putting a pistol to their heads, and leaving no choice to Members on that side of the House who owned to Party allegiance at all. If his vote, therefore, should be given for the Government, it would not be because he approved of this Convention, or of the action of the Government in regard to it, but because he shrank from helping to turn them out at a great national crisis; and he believed that was also the feeling of the great majority of those who, like himself, would vote not for the Convention, but for the Government.
§ MR. BOURKE
Sir Arthur Otway, it is not a matter of difficulty for any Member sitting on this side of the House to rise to address the Committee after the speech we have just heard, for a speech more condemnatory of the Convention could not have been made from this side of the House than that which has just been delivered by the hon. Member opposite. The hon. Member, however, has left the Committee in ignorance upon the important point as to how he is going to vote. At the same time, it is perfectly clear, no matter what their views are, or what arguments may be used against the Convention, or what damaging statements may be made, no matter how it is proved that the Convention must be injurious to England, and to Egypt also, the votes of hon. Gentlemen opposite will not be decided upon the merits of the case, but simply upon the issue whether, in their opinion, it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should or should not be turned out of Office. I leave hon. Members to justify their action to their constituents when they appear before them in a very short time. It certainly appears to me that the boasted freedom of Parliament is altogether a farce. The Prime Minister to-night, in a speech of great ingenuity and ability, founded his support of this Convention on two things—one was the ground of its necessity, and the other was upon its safety. Upon 732 the first portion of the case the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was discreetly brief, because the argument of necessity rested entirely upon the fact that in April next Egypt would owe £1,000,000, which she could not pay unless this loan were raised. A weaker defence of the policy of the Government was never put forward, because everyone knows, from the condition of Egyptian financial affairs, that it would be perfectly possible to stave off this difficulty for the next few months if this £1,600,000 were not paid by Egypt. It would be perfectly competent for bankers to advance sufficient money to enable the Egyptian Government to put off its difficulties. Anybody who has had the slightest experience of Egyptian affairs knows perfectly well that during the past few years the bankers have had to come forward and help that Government in its temporary difficulties; and it is perfectly possible there was no reason why they should not do the same thing at the present moment. And if they do that, we know from the Papers that the Egyptian Government will be perfectly well able to carry on the government of the country for some months. The Prime Minister alarmed the House very much the other day by pointing out the deplorable consequences which would arise from the bankruptcy of the Egyptian Government. I can only say that I think all that argument on the part of the right hon. Gentleman was unworthy of his great name; and if he bases the approval of the Convention on the plea of necessity, I think he has entirely failed to show that there is any foundation whatever for the plea. With regard to the question of safety—the second point of the right hon. Gentleman—the Prime Minister went at elaborate length into the question whether it was a safe arrangement or not. The right hon. Gentleman divided that question in his speech into two parts—namely, the Commission of Inquiry, and a guaranteed loan, resulting in International Control. The right hon. Gentleman said that International Control was absolutely out of the question; he agrees with us that International Control would be a most unfortunate thing for Egypt; and the question, therefore, is, whether the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry will have the effect of handing over the affairs of Egypt to 733 an International Control? It is one of the greatest peculiarities of the Papers which have been presented, that almost every statement in them goes to refute the arguments of the Government at the present moment rather than to support them. Instead of supporting the arguments put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, the Papers conclusively show that his contention is wholly contrary to them. Take, for instance, the question of the Commission of Inquiry. Many months ago the Earl of Dufferin said it would be altogether impossible that any Power should be allowed to interfere between England and the Egypt which she has created. Put if this Commission of Inquiry is agreed to, and the Commission of Inquiry is to be appointed, all the Powers of Europe who are to take part in it will be able to intervene between England and the Egypt which we are now creating. Even Earl Granville himself, in the Papers, has given the most conclusive reasons against the appointment of such a Commission of Inquiry. In his despatch of the 21st of January last Earl Granville said—As regards the proposal for a Commission of Inquiry, there appear to Her Majesty's Government to be reasons of great weight against it. Besides the anomalous constitution of the Board, consisting of seven diplomatists (for Turkey could not be refused admission to it) and of six members of the Caisse, who are ex officio representatives only of the bondholders, there are the following strong objections to it under present circumstances. The most recent information we have received shows that the Egyptian Government have been seriously occupied in reducing their expenditure, and have succeeded in doing much in that direction. When their revenue is increased by the power of taxing foreigners and the richer natives; and by the restoration of commercial prosperity, owing to the payment of the indemnities, and the renewal of confidence, it may be that no permanent sacrifice will be required of the bondholders. The prospect of this result would he greatly diminished by a proceeding which could not fail to impair the authority of the Egyptian Government and interfere with the effective financial reform which is now in progress. It would militate against the interests of the Egyptian people, and of those who have claims upon them. Should, however, such a permanent sacrifice appear to us, after the experience of the next two years, to be required, it would then become a fair matter of consideration whether, before that sacrifice is imposed on the bondholders, an International Commission, similar to that which was held before the Law of Liquidation was passed, should be appointed."—[Egypt. Mo; 4 (1885), 110–11.]Nothing could be stronger than the 734 opinion of Earl Granville against the suggestion of a Commission of Inquiry, The Earl of Northbrook seems to have entertained precisely the same opinion, and to have thought that the time for all inquiry had passed. Goodness knows we have had enough of inquiry. We have had inquiries of all kinds, from the time of Mr. Cave's Commission down to that of the Earl of Northbrook. There fore, the Earl of Northbrook very properly considered that the time for inquiry had passed, and that the time for action had arrived. He stated definitely what he thought ought to be done—that the taxes should be reduced, the export tax abolished, that foreigners should be taxed, and that various other reforms should take place in the administration. If an International Inquiry is to take place, or if the prospect of an International Inquiry is to be held out, then all reform would be suspended; because it is impossible for the authorities to set themselves to work upon reforms if they are to have the prospect before them of an International Inquiry within two years. That would not only upset all reforms, but would throw the whole Egyptian administration into a state of confusion. It may be said that this Commission of Inquiry is a just proposal, in consequence of the proceedings in connection with the Law of Liquidation in 1879. But I am sure the Government must admit that there is no parallel whatever between the Egypt of to-day and the Egypt of 1879. In 1879 the Law of Liquidation was proposed, in the first place, by the Egyptian Government, because at that time the country was in a state of hopeless bankruptcy. Every Department of the State was in disorder and confusion; the taxes were levied in the most arbitrary and cruel manner; recruiting was a most terrible tax upon the people; and irrigation, which, after all, is one of the most important points in connection with Egyptian administration, was in such a condition that it was of very little use to the country, and the money extracted from the unfortunate Fellaheen was expended without their receiving any benefit from the taxation to which they were compelled to contribute. The state of things now is quite different—so we are told by Her Majesty's Government—and I have no doubt that, to a great extent, it is true; for I have no doubt 735 that, notwithstanding the shortcomings of Her Majesty's Government, it is perfectly impossible for British officers to be in Egypt, taking part in the administration of Egyptian affairs, without admitting the necessity of reforms in the administration of that country. Therefore, it is idle to suppose there will be any legitimate reason for this Commission of Inquiry two years hence. Since 1879 a great many things have happened in Egypt, and she is in a very different position from that in which she was then. England is now entitled to say to the Powers—"After what we have done, or after what we are doing—after our goodwill has been shown towards the Egyptian Administration, and our wish manifested to introduce administrative reforms, and to bring about a financial equilibrium—after all these things it is perfectly intolerable that you—the Powers of Europe—who have made no sacrifices for Egypt, but have stood quietly by, should now come in and demand an inquiry into everything we have done, and into the administration which has practically been under our control for the last five years." I do not believe that any Power in Europe, except ourselves, would for a moment listen to such a proposition as that under similar circumstances. There is one point with regard to this subject which I think is a little obscure upon the Papers, and that is whether this Commission of Inquiry should take place under any circumstances. Certainly, under the Convention and under the Agreement, it would appear that if a continuance of the reduction of interest is to take place, then the Commission of Inquiry is to go on. Now, I should like to be perfectly certain whether the converse is also to be the case—that is, if by any means the bondholders should obtain their interest in full after the end of two years, will this Commission of Inquiry then be avoided? The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government seemed to imply not, because his expression was—"It will be a reality—that is, the Commission of Inquiry will be a reality—if Egypt fails to establish an equilibrium;" but that is a very different thing from what appears in the Papers, and it is a matter which might become of very great importance, because at the end of two years it might be worth the while of England to say to the 736 Powers—"Well, all you stipulated for was that the full interest should be paid to the bondholders, and that the Commission of Inquiry should only take place under the circumstance of that not being done. Whether or not the finances of Egypt are capable of paying full interest we avoid the Commission of Inquiry, and are ready to take upon ourselves the burden of paying this £200,000." After all, that is a very small sum; and I certainly think it would be well worth the while of England to pay £200,000 to avoid the Commission of Inquiry. If the Government say now that that is the meaning of the Convention, I think it would be a very great advantage; because it is the prospect of this Inquiry that is looked upon as so dangerous that I think there is hardly anyone in England who would not be willing to pay the £200,000 to avoid it. Certainly, no one in England desires that it should take place. Passing from the Commission of Inquiry, the right hon. Gentleman came next to the question of the joint guarantee. The right hon. Gentleman, with great fertility of illustration, spoke of the number of guarantees this country has from time to time embarked in. His strong point was that the guarantee of a loan did not in practice become the cause of International interference, and he instanced the cases of Spain, Greece, and Turkey. On that point I do not suppose there will be much contention. There can be no doubt that the principle has been laid down again and again with respect to foreign loans, and the same thing applies to guaranteed loans—that if the loan is in default there is a discretionary power to resort to any means possible to enforce payment. It is only a question, however, of discretion. The cases of Spain, Greece, and Turkey, alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman, were quite different from the present one. In those cases, all the Powers who had joined in the guarantee had no desire for interference, but were anxious to maintain the Governments concerned; whereas here the case is very different with regard to the guarantee, because I cannot see that, with the exception of England, there is any desire on the part of any of the guaranteeing Powers to maintain the Government of Egypt. But there is, in reality, no analogy whatever between the instances 737 alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman and the present. The great difference, as the House will see, is that in those countries there was no Law of Liquidation, no Caisse de la Dette, and no International Tribunals. With these three Instruments—International Tribunals, Caisse de la Dette, and the Law of Liquidation, it is possible for any guaranteeing Power to bring such a force and. influence to bear as to make Egypt bankrupt. Supposing, for instance, that hereafter Egypt was not so prosperous as we hope she will be, it might be that it would become a question for the Egyptian Government whether it was fair to the English taxpayer to go on paying the Sinking Fund of this loan. It would be perfectly possible for any of the guaranteeing Powers to come forward and say to England—"You must go on paying the Sinking Fund of this loan;" and they might, without the least notice or the slightest hesitation, at once institute proceedings, and force Egypt into paying what they demanded. That shows, with regard to this joint guarantee, that there is a danger and a power of interference arising out of the existing arrangements in Egypt which did not exist in regard to any other country in the world. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was not the right of a Power to interfere beyond the letter of its engagements. For my own part, I think that that is really an argument which might be of some importance in a Court of Law; but I do not think it is one which would have the slightest effect upon any of the Powers which are going to join in this guarantee. The very instant that it would be for the advantage of any of the guaranteeing Powers to interfere in the affairs of Egypt, I am quite certain they would be ready to do so, and would make the fact of joining in this guarantee a locus standi for their interference. How do the Government propose to meet the objections which have been made to the joint guarantee? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to retreat under the shelter of a proviso that there is to be no International interference. He said, when he first announced this joint guarantee to the House, that it was only to be in existence provided there was no International interference. We find, now, that the proviso has only existed in the brain of the Chancellor of the 738 Exchequer. There is no proviso of the kind whatever, and the only thing upon which the right hon. Gentleman has then to fall back upon is the inference to be drawn from the Joint Guarantee of 1855. But there is no analogy whatever between the Guarantee of 1855 and the present. On that occasion we had a common object with France; we were embarked with France in pursuance of an object which both countries had equally at heart, and both countries were ready to make common sacrifices. A joint guarantee was necessary also, because it was extremely improbable that Turkey would ever be able to repay the loan, or pay the interest of it. In the present case there is no risk at all, and the only object the Powers can. have in being anxious to join in this guarantee is an object which is not disclosed, but which we can all guess. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will explain to the House the reasons which have induced him to change his opinion with regard to the importance of this joint guarantee from the view which he expressed at the Conference. At the Conference the right hon. Gentleman used these words—We could not expect or ask Parliament to agree to a joint control, nor have we reason to believe that all the Powers would agree to it.Now, Sir, it would be extremely interesting to know what has taken place in the interval to change the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I certainly cannot imagine that anything can have taken place which ought to have changed that opinion. On the contrary, I think that all the arguments which have been used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by Earl Granville, and also by the Earl of Northbrook against the joint guarantee have been very much fortified by what has since taken place. We have gone on making greater sacrifices in Egypt than we had made then, and we have got more and more, apparently, into connection with the Government of Egypt, and more and more masters of the Government of Egypt. Then I think that whatever reasons existed in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer against this joint guarantee in July last ought to be much stronger now than they were at that time. The analogy between the Guarantee of 1855 and the present guarantee cannot be sustained for a moment. 739 In 1855 we had pledged our credit for an object we all considered one of importance to the interests of the nation, and now it is proposed to pledge the credit of England in order to enable other Powers to snatch from us what we had legitimately gained in Egypt. What the effect of this arrangement in Egypt will be, I think we may all pretty easily judge of and speculate upon; and although I do not often read newspaper extracts in the House, yet, considering the position of The Times Correspondent at Cairo, whose opinions upon Egyptian affairs have almost always come true during the last year and a-half, and who has warned the Government over and over again of all the dangers that they were incurring, I will read two or three paragraphs from the Cairo telegram in The Times of this morning. The writer says—As regards the financial accord itself, opinions have naturally differed. Foreigners, with few exceptions, have regarded it with triumph, as definitively precluding any probability of a successful arrangement by England, and as necessitating an eventual resort to the Powers, and so dealing a severe blow at English administrative prestige, not in Egypt only, but throughout the East. The English, and the intelligent natives generally, are equally hostile to the Treaty. They find it difficult to say whether it is more fatal to English or to Egyptian interests, though some few, wearied with our repeated failures, were anxiou3 to purchase even two year's tranquillity at any cost. But the absence of any, even a formal, guarantee of non-intervention removes the last plank, and plunges them at once into a worse inferno than they have endured for the past two years.The Correspondent then goes on to describe the exultation of the foreigners over this International Guarantee which Parliament is now called upon to sanction. Hon. Members must ask themselves now what it is that has induced the Powers to help Parliament to make such a proposal as that which we are now discussing? I contend that it is nothing but the miserable weakness of Her Majesty's Government. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, does not agree with me; but all I can say is that if he will appeal to the feeling of Europe or to any of the diplomatists of Europe whether they would not say this—"We sanctioned your going to Egypt; we endured what you were doing there for some time. We did not approve of your action, but we did not arrest your progress. After the way you have con. 740 ducted Egyptian affairs, however, it is impossible for us to any longer to avoid interference." It is perfectly plain, from the Papers which have been presented to the House, that one of the most deplorable circumstances connected with the financial affairs of Egypt arises from one of the most palpable blunders ever committed by a statesman, and that is the advice given by Her Majesty's Government to Egypt which resulted in the suspension of the Sinking Fund in September last. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER made an observation which did not reach the Gallery.] Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech will answer the question whether the moment that was done the immediate result was not a demand on the part of Russia and Germany to have two Representatives admitted on the Caisse to represent their Government?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes me to answer that question I am quite ready to do so?
§ MR. BOURKE
AS the right hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity later on, perhaps he had better answer it then. I have no desire to detain the Committee; but there is a passage in one of the despatches from M. de Giers pointing out the reason why the two Powers had asked to be represented on the Caisse. M. de Giers said—it will be found at page 93 of the Papers—in a despatch to the Russian Ambassador here—The infringement of the financial arrangements, which took place on the 18th of September of this year, without meeting with the resistance on which we should have thought that we could count from the present members of the Commission, naturally modified our views.
§ MR. BOURKE
That is exactly what he stated. I hope there will be no mistake about this matter. If I am not accurate I am very much mistaken indeed. All I say is that the infringement of the financial arrangements which took place in September was the reason why Germany and Russia asked to be represented on the Caisse. M. de Giers went on to say— 741As the renewal of such irregularities"—the irregularity being the suspension of the Sinking Fund—"was not impossible in the future, we naturally attached a greater importance to the necessity of giving the Commission, by the addition of Russian and German Delegates, the character and authority required for the protection of the rights and interests, based upon international agreements, the maintenance of which we, for our part, could not abandon to the care of others."—[I bid., p. 93.]After that I think I am entitled to say that the suspension of the Sinking Fund led to the unfortunate demand of the Powers. I should be sorry if, by any imperfection of speech, I have led the right hon. Gentleman to imagine that it was something else I referred to. I hope that I am now quite understood?
§ MR. BOURKE
I mention the matter, because I think we have now a plain issue before us, and I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to give a satisfactory explanation. I am much obliged to the Committee for having listened to me with so much patience. I believe that this arrangement is financially imprudent, and politically dangerous and unwise; and my opinion is that all the dangers which we have predicted for it will ensue. So far from producing harmony among the Powers, I look forward to it as being a source of very great irritation between England and the rest of the Powers for the next two years.
§ MR. ACKERS
said, he should not have risen to address the Committee on that occasion if it were not for the fact that his constituents were exceedingly anxious that as they had been the last to pronounce an opinion upon the action of Her Majesty's Government he, as their Representative, should say a few words upon the important question now under discussion. He had the honour to represent a constituency (West Gloucester) which was no small one, and which, although a county constituency, was not purely agricultural, seeing that it included within its limits nearly all the leading merchants and traders of the great City of Bristol, who lived outside that city and formed part of the constituency of West Gloucestershire. The division had also a very large mining population, a considerable portion of whom had votes, and a large industrial population outside Bristol, many of whom were county voters. It was, 742 therefore, as the Committee would see, a very representative constituency, and might be said to reflect the varied opinions entertained in England at the present time. It was a very large constituency, numbering something like 178,000, and having a larger number of electors than some of the present constituencies had inhabitants, including women and children, which sent to that House devoted adherents to Her Majesty's Government. In addressing a few words to the Committee, he would crave the indulgence of hon. Members if, as a new Member, he said anything that was not strictly in accordance with the Rules of the House; but he felt satisfied that if he transgressed the hon. Gentleman in the Chair would call him to Order. He had no desire to transgress, and he would, therefore, ask for the indulgence of the Committee during the short time he proposed to occupy its attention. The constituency he had the honour to represent had for more than 30 years returned at least one Liberal Member to the House. At the last General Election two Liberals were returned, the lowest of whom had a majority of more than 500 over his Conservative opponent; but now that Her Majesty's Government had been in Office for five years things had so altered that he was standing there not only as a Conservative Member for that constituency, but as one who had been returned, and he had great pleasure in saying so, by the votes of Liberals as well as Conservatives—Liberals who used to work and vote for Liberal candidates, and who so worked and voted at the last General Election, but who had been so moved by the conduct of affairs by Her Majesty's Government that they considered it their duty to come forward now and speak out with no uncertain voice. At the same time, he did not think that Her Majesty's Government were likely to listen to that voice. Fortunately, the days of the present Parliament wore dying out—its existence was fast ebbing away, and in a very short time the constituencies of the country would have to decide what policy should be pursued in the future. He was quite aware that for the moment the Government were masters of the situation, and that they were able, as had been stated by the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. M'Coan), who spoke 743 below the Gangway on the other side of the House, to secure a majority for any measure they might bring forward, even if it did not represent the views of the majority of the Liberal Party. That was a statement which was made openly on the other side of the House; and hon. Members know very well that it was true, both from the votes which were recorded in the House and from what was said outside. As to the particular questions now before the Committee, he would ask why, if an International Control, or anything like an International Control, was so wholly out of the question last year, it was accepted by Her Majesty's Government at the present moment, or why they should be doing that which, in the opinion of a large number of the Members of that House, and he believed in the opinion of the majority of the House, would directly tend towards bringing about that International Control which was asserted by the Government to be impossible to accept last year? The Government alleged as a reason for their action that all the other Great Powers of Europe insisted upon an International Control. But he read in the Papers presented to the House that the Government of Italy did not see any reason for its acceptance, and were ready and willing to assist us in a much better way out of the difficulty. In regard to Russia, the remarks which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke) formed a very strong argument indeed. There was, however, another point in regard to Russia—namely, that the Russian Ambassador distinctly told them that Russia did not care for the financial aspect of the question as much as the other Powers did. If that were true, and Russia did not care for the financial aspect of the question, what was it that she did care for? What she wanted was to have the power, if she chose to use it, of thwarting this country in Egypt, and to have the opportunity, if she could obtain it, of checking our influence in matters that were essential to us in reference to the route to India. The words of the Russian Ambassador, although they were admitted to be used without specific instructions, were that Russia was less concerned than some other Powers, and particularly France, in the merely financial question. He 744 would ask hon. Members to notice the way in which Her Majesty's Government had been treated in this matter. If he might say so without offence, the Government had been treated by the Government of France in a much more disrespectful manner than they would have been treated if they had been a stronger Government. He said, deliberately, that Her Majesty's Government was not a strong Government, and he made that assertion for this reason. No Government, however able the individual Members of it might be, could be a strong Government if it was divided against itself, and the present Government was notoriously divided against itself. Judging from the public utterances of Members of Her Majesty's Ministry, there were greater differences of opinion between right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench than there were between many of their supporters and the Conservatives on that side of the House. The Government were not united as a whole, and they knew that in this particular instance no less than five Members had left the Government because they disapproved of its policy; and those five Members, he ventured to say, represented the feeling of the country at large much more largely than the remaining Members of the Government did. He did not say, for one moment, that Her Majesty's Government, when it took Office, did not fully represent the majority at the last General Election; but five years of Office had brought about a great change; just as the five years that went before made a great change in the fortunes of the Conservative Ministry, so also in the five years which had since elapsed a great change had taken place in the feeling of the country with regard to the present Government. There had been more than one utterance by a Member of Her Majesty's Government which had been apologetically spoken of as an individual utterance, and not the utterance of the Government as a whole. If that wore the case, if not absolutely unconstitutional, the position of matters was extremely dangerous, because it was highly desirable that when a Member of the Government went down into the country to enlighten the people as to what the policy of the Government was he should speak the mind of the Government. What had been the 745 result of this double mind of the Government? It was that the country had suffered humiliation abroad, and humiliation at home. England's word ought to be her bond, as it had always been in the past, and as the country would insist that it should be in the future. They wanted every nation in the world to feel that when England once said a thing she meant what she said, and intended to carry it out. Coming to the pith of what he desired to say, he would ask that the Liberal Members—the National Liberal Members, of whom, happily, there were so many, although their votes in that House were not always in accordance with the views they entertained, especially when it came to be a question whether or not they should turn out Hoi-Majesty's Government—he trusted that the National Liberal Members would in matters of national policy join the Conservative Party, and form one nation for the common good. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite might laugh, and he was as yet young in that House; but he knew what was said outside the House—namely, that Party was preferred before patriotism; and if they had but the Ballot inside the House of Commons as it existed outside, the voice of the House would be very different. At present the votes recorded in the House were not the free expression of the opinion of the House. He, for one, would heartily welcome that free expression of opinion; and he would say again, whether the assertion caused laughter in that House or not, that he should be as delighted to welcome the support of National Liberals in a national policy as he had been to welcome the support of Liberals at his election. Ear beyond any desire to see the Conservative Party in power was his wish to see both sides of the House taking up a great national position in regard to questions of national policy. What was to become of the country if men holding national views were not to stand together? It was all very well to say that Her Majesty's Government were in a majority at the present moment, and that they controlled the House and the country by that majority. That was quite true, unfortunately; but their majority was made up in a way which they could not hope to preserve in a future Parliament. He strongly appealed to the patriotism 746 of hon. Members to join together, before the present Parliament dissolved, in order that they might act together as a nation, and not as a Party. He knew that it was very difficult to set aside Party considerations, or to give up Party names; and he knew further that there was a strong desire—which he fully sympathized with—in the minds of hon. Members on the Liberal side to remain connected with the Party they had go long been associated with. But they on the Conservative side had also their glorious traditions. He would ask neither side to give up those traditions; all he asked was that they should be united, and become one great united Conservative Liberal, or Liberal Conservative body—he cared not which—and if they went to the country on that issue they would be able to place in power, not a Party, but a nation. If that course had been pursued, they would not have had this Convention before them now. If that were the case they would have that strong Government in Office which he wished to see, able to speak to the Powers of Europe, with no menacing voice, but with a full knowledge of what their power was, determined to do that which they considered best in Egypt, where their interests were mainly concerned, not only for this country, but for Egypt herself. He might, perhaps, en passant, be allowed to say that he entirely repudiated the notion of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) that the question of the Fellaheen was a secondary matter.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
remarked, that what he had said was that the question of the Fellaheen ought not to be a secondary matter; but that, unfortunately, it was.
§ MR. ACKERS
said, he was afraid that that was the gist of his (Mr. Ackers's) objection to Her Majesty's Government—namely, that they did not carry out what ought to be, but only what was convenient for the time being. They appeared to have no statesmanlike policy. A statesman would look ahead, and see not only what was best for the time, but what was best for the future 747 also. ["Oh!"] He knew that he was only addressing the Committee by its own indulgence; but he was also aware that if he spoke as he ought not to speak the Chairman would call him to Order. He would only repeat, in conclusion, that outside the House—for it was of very little consequence now what occurred inside of it, in a moribund Parliament—what the country really cared for was that there should be a strong Government in Office with a sound policy—with a foreign policy dictated not by fits and starts, but by settled and continued convictions, so that those who were their allies might know that in the future they could again rely upon the word of England. He would suggest that there were certain principles that were not beneath the consideration of the country, and which he hoped were not beneath the consideration of that House, upon which they might build up a great National Party and policy—a policy able to command the sympathies of the nation and the attention and respect of Europe. He would suggest that Liberals and Conservatives might join in such a programme as this—Undoubted and undiluted loyalty to the Throne and Constitution; a determination, equally undoubted and undiluted, to retain the absolute integrity of the British Empire both near and far; an earnest desire to bind the Colonies closely together with the Mother Country in one vast Empire for their security and peace and in the interests of trade; civil and religious liberty in the fullest and freest sense; and, he would add also, religious education in the public elementary schools. [A laugh.] He was sorry, but not surprised, that that programme should have been received with laughter by some hon. Members opposite. If a programme such as this were agreed upon and carried out—if it were made plain to the meanest intelligence that no one unable to subscribe to such a programme would ever have the remotest chance of a seat on the Treasury Bench—disloyalty would soon shrink into its bonâ fide and insignificant proportions. He could only hope that the Government would consider the question with a view of ascertaining what the opinion of the country was; for he ventured to think that in the present negotiations they were more inclined to pay attention to the views 748 of Foreign Governments than to the wishes of the people of England.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
I think I am in the recollection of the Committee when I say that last Monday we had a lively, though rather short, debate as to whether or not Her Majesty's Government had presented the Parliamentary Papers bearing upon the question before the Committee, at a date sufficiently early to allow of their contents being mastered by hon. Members opposite previous to the debate which was to commence to-day, or at the latest on Monday next. The great anxiety which hon. Members opposite displayed on that occasion was, perhaps, in one sense, justified, for it appears that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke), at all events, has not yet had sufficient time to make or renew his acquaintance with the Blue Books of last Session. I think that had the right hon. Gentleman had time to do so, he would not have made the rather remarkable assertion which he made just now in regard to the claim of Russia and Germany to be represented on the Caisse. I believe I am not misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman when I say that the assertion which fell from his lips was that it was in consequence of the action of the Egyptian Government—acting as they did with the support, or, at any rate, with the knowledge, of Her Majesty's Government—in suspending the Sinking Fund which occasioned that demand to be made by the Governments of Russia and Germany. Now, what are the plain facts? The demand of Russia and Germany to be represented on the Cause preceded by some two months the proposal for the suspension of the Sinking Fund. The date of the suspension of the Sinking Fund was, if I remember rightly, the 13th of September last; but the request of Russia and Germany to be represented on the Cause was made during the sitting of the London Conference in July last. If the right hon. Gentleman will refer to page 25 of "Egypt, No. 30," he will find that at the sitting on the 29th of July the Russian Plenipotentiary expressed himself in these terms—Russia is not represented on the Commission of the Public Debt in Egypt, but she expressly reserved her rights when this Commission was instituted. There is now a question 749 of extending the functions of the Commission. In view, therefore, of the interests which Russia has to protect in Egypt, I am instructed to ask for the admission of a Russian Delegate on the Commission. This participation, besides, is in accordance with the principle of internationally and joint control adopted with regard to Egyptian affairs.To which Count Münster added—That, taking into consideration the importance which the Caisse would have in future, it would be of advantage to Germany to be represented if a Russian Commissioner were admitted.It was from this proceeding that the demand from Russia and Germany to be represented on the Caisse originated. The right hon. Gentleman, at the commencement of his observations, attempted to controvert the statement of the Prime Minister in regard to what in reality are the vital points in this matter-namely, the necessity, and also the safety, of the present arrangement; and he said he considered that, in regard to the necessity of the steps taken, no weaker statement could possibly have been made, and that he did not recollect any weaker statement having fallen from the lips of the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman then proceeded to do what was, perhaps, rather rash. He attempted to prove the observations he had made, and said that he thought the statement of the Prime Minister that no less a sum than £1,600,000 had to be obtained, in some way or other, to meet the most pressing necessities of the Egyptian Government before the end of next month was not really, after all, so grave a matter. If such are the financial ideas of the right hon. Gentleman, I sincerely hope that the financial affairs of this country may never fall into his hands; and all I can say is, that if he thinks the credit of a Government already seriously in debt does not constitute a case of the utmost urgency, his ideas of sound finance are not, on the whole, what I should have expected to hear from a Gentleman who in any way belongs to the Party which was once led by Sir Robert Peel. However, was the statement of the Prime Minister in regard to the necessity of the case based merely on the fact that the Egyptian Government, in the month of April next, had to obtain this large sum of £1,600,000? No, Sir; it was not. The Prime Minister alluded also to the general financial position of 750 the Egyptian Government, and any Member of the Committee who has made himself acquainted with the financial history of Egypt during the last two years must be aware that the financial situation of that country at the present time, created, as it has been, by the grave events of the last few years, is of a most serious and pressing character. It is not my wish, at this late hour, to enter at any length into financial details. That task would, no doubt, be better discharged by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who will speak with an authority I do not possess at a later stage of the debate. But, speaking generally, the financial situation of Egypt during the last few years has been this—that for some years after the Law of Liquidation there was a period of continued financial prosperity. The Revenue of the country exceeded the Expenditure, and there were surpluses each year which, under the arrangement made by the Law of Liquidation, were devoted to the payment of debt. There was every reason to believe that, had it not been for the military movement which, unfortunately, sprang up in the early part of the year 1882, that condition of things would have continued. But what happened in 1882? The military movement, at the head of which was Arabi Pasha, so disturbed the prosperity of the country and disorganized its financial arrangements, that the surpluses were changed into deficits; and this condition of things continued during 1882, 1883, 1884, and practically continues at the present time. But that is not all. There were not only accumulating deficits which sprang up from the military movement, but the special events connected with the movement which arose in the Soudan came in to throw fresh burdens on the already suffering shoulders of the Egyptian taxpayers. Therefore, Egyptian finance became most seriously disorganized; and it is a fact that so far back as the last days of the Dual Control, at the end of 1882, when Sir Auckland Colvin was the English Controller, he and his French Colleague expressed the opinion that to put the financial situation of Egypt into a satisfactory condition a sum of no less than £8,000,000 would have to be raised. That was as far back as the year 1882, and every hon. Member is aware that 751 since that time the situation has not improved. I am quoting from the Memorandum of Sir Auckland-Colvin, which is in the possession of every Member of the House. Therefore, I cannot understand how the right hon. Gentleman, taking into consideration that there are old accumulated deficits and a large growing expenditure owing to the events in the Soudan, besides other expenditure of a special character—I cannot understand how the right hon. Gentleman can possibly doubt or deny for a single moment that the financial situation of Egypt is at the present time of a most urgent and pressing character, and that it was the bounden duty of the Egyptian Government and of Her Majesty's Government not to lose a single day or a single hour in doing all in their power to rectify this unsatisfactory condition of things. It is no exaggeration to say that upon the rectification of the present financial situation depends, to a very great extent, the recovery of Egypt's material prosperity. I would ask the leave of the Committee to call its attention to a few remarks made in an interesting Commercial Report by Consul Cookson, a man whose opinions are always received with the greatest respect. In his Commercial Report from Alexandria for 1883, Consul Cookson speaks as follows:—In spite of the universal feeling of uneasiness and insecurity which has been caused by the continued uncertainty of the political situation, it will be observed, upon studying the statistics of this Report, that the general trade and commerce of Egypt have in great measure recovered from the effects of the late war. The imports have been increased to a higher figure than in any other previous year. The position of the Fellaheen, too, in spite of, and partly in consequence of, the greater difficulty which they have had in borrowing money, has, on the whole, decidely improved, as it seems by the admitted fact that they are paying off a portion of their heavy debts to private money-lenders. They still seem to cherish lingering hopes of some revolution which will repudiate both public and private liabilities; but this feeling will, it is to be hoped, gradually die away. The political and financial position, however, is so menacing that private capital remains locked up, and no material development of the resources of the country or practical reform in its administration is possible without expenditure, which the present state of the Revenue renders impossible.What is the fair deduction from that? The fair deduction is that you must rectify, reform, and improve the financial 752 situation before you can expect the material prosperity of that country really to improve. Remember that was the condition of things which existed in 1880 and 1881, when there was a surplus, and not a deficit. But how could that state of things be arrived at except by enabling the Egyptian Government by a fresh loan to pay off the debt which had been incurred, in a great measure, owing to the operations in the Soudan, and to the payment of the large sums due in consequence of the Alexandrian indemnities. So much, therefore, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the necessity of the situation; but then he went on to controvert what had fallen from the Prime Minister in regard to the safety of the present arrangement. Here, following the lead which was, to a certain extent, given in the speeches made earlier in the evening, the right hon. Gentleman enlarged upon the dangers of the so-called International Control, which he asserted must infallibly spring out of the arrangement now before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman asked why it was, if the Powers did not desire to exercise an International Control, that they desired to have an International Guarantee? It seems to me that it was not unreasonable or unnatural to believe that the sentiment of equality which exists among great nations—a desire not to appear to be left out from arrangements which are being made in regard to events of European importance—is one which naturally would weigh, and no doubt has weighed, to a great extent, with the Powers in making such a demand. I hold myself that this arrangement, bringing together as it does all the Powers in a friendly guarantee, is an arrangement which it is not well to describe in the tones of almost panic terror which have been used in regard to it this evening. I see no necessity for suspecting dark designs and evil intentions on the part of the Great Powers who have expressed a wish to be parties to an International Guarantee. The Powers, if they desire to interfere with the affairs of Egypt, as the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) has practically admitted, do not require an International Guarantee in order to enable them to do so. The hon. Member has said, and said with great truth, that the position of this country—and what is true of this country is true 753 of any other Great Power—that the position of this country in regard to Egypt, and its right to interfere with Egypt, depend not upon this International Guarantee, but upon the circumstances of the time and place. That is perfectly true; and he was in reality using, to a great extent, the same argument as that which had been used at an earlier period of the evening by the Prime Minister. The Capitulations, the International Tribunals, the Law of Liquidation, the circumstances under which the different Firmans have been granted, the title of the present Khedive to his Throne—these are what give to the Powers a right to intervene. The power to interfere existed before the International Guarantee, and would exist, whether the accord is brought about or whether it is not. The hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce), who opened the debate on the other, side of the House, no doubt speaks with great authority upon questions of Oriental finance. The methods of Oriental finance as he admitted when he spoke of Oriental States, which are generally on the verge of bankruptcy, are, no doubt, very different from the methods of European States; and it is certain that if the Government desire to do anything serious to improve the financial position of Egypt, they must do so by rooting out of the country, and out of the administration of the country, ideas which, from want of a better expression, I will call ideas of Oriental finance, and substituting for them the sounder financial ideas which exist in countries such as this and other European countries. Although the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce) began his speech by a reference, of which I will make no complaint, to his position as an Oriental financier, he very rapidly departed from the position of an Oriental financier, or any other kind of financier, and became a politician. He made a most elaborate attack on the Government for having missed all their opportunities. He said that the right and the duty of the Government, the moment a shot was fired at Alexandria, were practically to have taken possession of Egypt. I do not think I am in the least misrepresenting the argument of the hon. Member when I describe it from the beginning to the end as a plea for annexation and for the violation of all public law. It was 754 an argument in favour of force, and of the application by this country of the right of the strong arm to the affairs of Egypt. It seems to me that there are two points of view from which the speech of the hon. Member may be considered. First of all, let me assume that it was at some period or another between the time when those events began—which I take to be the year 1876, when the Caisse first came into existence—and the Present time; let me assume that, according to the hon. Member, at some time or another between those periods, it was the duty of the Government, whenever it recognized a favourable moment, to have seized the opportunity of exercising force—the might of the strong hand—wherever they thought it probable that they would succeed, and thereby to have established the sole and undivided influence and authority of England in Egypt. Let me assume that to be the case, and then let me ask who it was that lost the opportunity? When was the opportunity most favourable for the assertion of English power in Egypt, and for ousting the power and influence of any other country? I have often seen that question discussed, and it has always been put in the following manner:—"Why, after the war between France and Germany, when the power of France was at the lowest ebb, did you not take advantage of the situation to oust French influence in Egypt, because French influence there at that moment would have perished before you, and the minimum of exertion would have been required to enable you to accomplish that great end?" But when was that opportunity given to an English Government? Why, Sir, it was in the period when Her Majesty's late Advisers were in power; and, therefore, if the opportunity was lost, it was lost during the years 1874–5, and the following years, before there was a revival of French power and influence, and be-fore France had recovered from the terrible blows, under which she so long reeled, that were inflicted upon her during the Franco-German War. Now, I have no hesitation in saying that had the late Government adopted that course, they would have been adopting a most dangerous, as well as a very wrong, course. But, nevertheless, if ever there was an opportunity given for adopting with success that high-handed course, 755 then was the time, and then was the opportunity lost. No doubt, it would have been entering on a perilous policy, because the recovery of a great country like France was only a question of time; and if she had felt that in her hour of weakness advantage had been taken to smite her in a tender part, she would have taken the first opportunity afterwards of paying off the score with interest. Therefore, I should say that the late Government did wisely in not doing anything of the kind; but when they had the opportunity and neglected it, surely it does not lie in their mouth to blame their Successors because, under circumstances much less favourable, they did not adopt the course from which their Predecessors had deliberately abstained. It is absolutely necessary for the case of the Government that I should consider what happened during the last two years of the tenure of Office of Her Majesty's late Government and the early years of Her Majesty's present Government. Her Majesty's late Advisers consented to the establishment in the Caisse of a Body with power to veto all loans; and they also gave a veto to the Porte on the issue of loans, because the last Firman under which the present Khedive held his title restored to the Porte the privilege which the penultimate Firman had taken away—namely, the right of giving its consent to any loan which might be issued by the Khedive and the Government of Egypt. And, lastly, the Second Control put an end, in the time of the late Government, to the privileged position which in the earlier Control, and during the short period of Nubar Pasha's first Ministry, had been held by the English Adviser and by the English Minister in Egypt. That is a point which I think is worth dwelling upon, because it is an answer to a great deal of the criticism which is so freely launched at Her Majesty's Government by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It would be no exaggeration to compare the relative positions of the Englishman and Frenchman, in the First Control, with those of the Secretary of State and of an Auditor. When that arrangement disappeared, there was substituted for it by the Marquess of Salisbury one under which the privileged position of the Englishman, as compared with the Frenchman, was taken away; 756 and both Sir Rivers Wilson and M. de Blignières had the right of attending the Council of Ministers and exercising certain privileges of advice and control upon an exactly equal footing. The net result of the whole arrangement was that after the termination of a controversy of four years the privileged position of the Englishman had disappeared. That being so, how does it lie in the mouths of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to taunt us with being those who had not sufficiently borne in mind the necessity of upholding the interests of this country in Egypt? Those, Sir, were quiet times when they made that arrangement; but, although they were quiet times, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite handed over to France—not under pressure of the great difficulties which the present Government has had to deal with—the rights of which they were in possession at starting. Again, the powers and rights of the Caisse have all along been a most serious matter. Any person who has read the proceedings of the Conference of last year will be fully aware that one of the principal differences of opinion which existed between Her Majesty's Plenipotentiaries and those of France had reference to the claim of France constantly made, in one shape or another, for the extension of the power and privileges of the Caisse; but it was always felt that the constitution of the Caisse already gave to European Governments, if not the right, at least a potential right, through those gentlemen who sat upon the Caisse, of exercising a very decided influence upon whatever decision it might be the wish of the Egyptian Government to take with regard to the arrangement of the finances of the country, and that it would be very dangerous to extend it. That, Sir, shows how very gravely hampered Her Majesty's Government and the Egyptian Government were by this arrangement, for which, as I said just now, they are in no manner responsible. Therefore, the position at the time when the Conference of last year broke up was that, owing to financial difficulties, which I have just described to the Committee, the borrowing powers which the Egyptian Government had under the Law of Liquidation were entirely exhausted; that a large Floating Debt was accumulated—a Debt owing to the indemnities, to the deficits 757 arising from the war in the Soudan, to the military necessities, and other causes; and the Powers had the advantage, through the Caisse, of practically enforcing their own views in regard to whatever decision the Egyptian Government might wish to take respecting the raising of a loan to meet the financial difficulties which I have described. The only weapon which was in the hands of the Egyptian Government, and of Her Majesty's Government, in so far as they advised the Egyptian Government, was that they might have raised, if they thought fit, the very formidable and difficult question about the composition of the Caisse—a question which it would not, perhaps, have been desirable to raise, and upon which I do not wish to express any opinion—namely, how far the Caisse was a body on which the Governments, or any particular nationality bad the right of being represented. It was, no doubt, true that the Decree of 1876, which is well known to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, only specified that foreigners should be upon the Caisse. It did not specify that foreigners of any particular nationality except that of England should be upon the Caisse; and, therefore, it would have been open to Her Majesty's Government possibly to raise this point, if the Egyptian Government were hard pressed, as to how far the present composition of the Caisse was to be maintained. But that would have boon a very difficult question to raise, and one which no one would have thought it wise to raise, except under the pressure of extreme necessity. Therefore, the whole position came to this—it was one in which a compromise was necessary; it was a matter for negotiation; it was not a matter for the assertion of extreme rights. Throughout these debates I have observed with astonishment that right hon. Gentlemen opposite have spoken as if the only countries concerned in this question wore Egypt and England. They seemed to imagine that Egypt was a sort of tabula rasa on which England could impress whatever character she wished. But that is not the position. England has rights, no doubt, arising from those circumstances of time and place to which the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) alluded; but England is not the only country which has an historical position with regard to 758 Egypt; and it would have been impossible—and the conduct of the late Government is a proof of it—for this country to assert the right to act in Egypt according to its own sweet will. I venture to say that if the late Government had continued in power to the present day they would not have put forward the view expressed by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce) in this debate, that England ought to have acted with a strong and outstretched arm, and without regard to the rights and privileges of other countries. Sir, Her Majesty's Government had rationally only four courses open to them in regard to Egypt. They might, no doubt, by the course of events, have allowed Egypt to drift into bankruptcy. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear!" but that is a course which a reasonable man would hardly wish to be pursued. I am aware that it has found one or two solitary supporters; but the very fact of their standing alone affords a strong presumption against the correctness of the view they take. Then this country might have lent £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 to the Egyptian Government. But was that a course which this House would have approved? Was it one which would have recommended itself to the financial experience of business men in this country—that we should have plunged into so great an operation? Sir, I venture to doubt it. Then, no doubt, there was this course open to us—that we should pay off the whole amount, and thereby sweep away the Law of Liquidation, which alone gives the right to other Powers to intervene. But then, again, we should have had to come to the House of Commons for its consent; and I should like to ask the opinion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), or any other hon. Gentleman opposite, whether he thinks that the Government ought to have come forward to pay off the whole of the Egyptian Debt, and taken over the control of the country, for that is what was placed before us to-night by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, when he said that the true policy for the Government to pursue was the policy of taking over the government of Egypt. His speech was a plea in favour of armed intervention preceded by financial intervention. I say that the posi- 759 tion of the hon. Member for Portsmouth, although I dissent from it, is one which can be understood and supported by argument, and which is a fair one to meet. But there is no half-way house in this matter; you must either adopt the policy of the hon. Member for Portsmouth, or you must adopt the last of the four alternatives to which I have alluded—namely, the policy of compromise which has been adopted by Her Majesty's Government. We have been told in the course of this debate that we have surrendered entirely to Prance, and that we have nothing to show for our diplomacy. I deny that proposition. The policy adopted at the Conference of last year is practically developed in the Blue Books now before Parliament; and I say that in that Conference we asked for one most important thing which we could not obtain, and which we have now obtained—namely, that the bondholders should make some contribution to the necessities of Egypt. It is true that the sum obtained now by the tax of 5 per cent on the coupons is less than we should have obtained by the tax proposed last year; nevertheless we have obtained that consent on the part of the bondholders which was last year refused. In addition to this, we have successfully resisted the claim put forward by Prance last year for an immediate investigation of the subject of Egyptian finance, and the extension in connection with that investigation or otherwise of the powers of the Caisse, the subject on which, as I have pointed out, the Conference of last year broke up. Therefore, we do not come before this House without anything substantial to show. We have gained those two substantial points on which the Conference of last year turned; and if we are told, as we have been told by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bourke), that he tan produce passages in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Earl Granville said they could not agree, and did not think the House of Commons would agree, to a Joint Guarantee, my reply is that those statements were made when it was believed that no concession would be obtained upon those other points upon which I have shown that concession has been obtained. And, further, if the right hon. Gentleman will refer to the passage 760 he has quoted, he will see that there is an important qualification, because we had no reason to suppose that the other Powers had any wish to come into such an arrangement. I assert that the wish of the Powers to come into the Joint Guarantee was a wish of which there was no trace in their demands at the Conference of last year, and it was a wish posterior to those events to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bourke) just now alluded when he spoke of the Earl of Northbrook's Mission. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman alludes to those passages containing extracts, or summaries rather, of the speeches made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Earl Granville, he must bear in mind the qualifications I have just now made. He must also recollect that when he is quoting those words he is not quoting the actual words, but only a summary of them; he has no right to come forward and say—"Earl Granville rose in the Conference, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose in the Conference, and spoke as follows." If he will look at the Protocol of the Conference, he will find that, if what transpired in the Conference were reported verbatim, the Blue Book would have been swollen to a hundred times its present size. Therefore, without wishing to withdraw or qualify anything of what was said, it must be recollected that the words are summaries. No doubt in some cases the actual words of passages are given; but they must be read in connection with the general proceedings of the Conference.
§ MR. BOURKE
The paragraph I quoted was carefully read at the Conference by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and therefore, no doubt, had been prepared beforehand. The words I quoted were in "inverted commas."
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
No doubt, there are passages containing actual words; but those passages must be taken in connection with the general proceedings of the Conference, and not be treated as isolated passages, apart from the context. Sir, these are the principal points which, I think, have been raised in the debate—the necessity of the present steps, the safety of those steps, and whether this country ought or ought not to have assumed, or even now to assume, a far more vigorous and independent line 761 in Egypt than any which recommended itself to the late Government or to the present Government. But there is another aspect of this question which I think it my duty to lay before the Committee. This agreement has been made. If you reject it, if you adopt the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce), what do you think the result will be? Will you be any nearer obtaining the policy which he advocates? Will you be any nearer obtaining what you wish if you agree with the hon. Gentleman? That is a point upon which I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) will enlighten us. What is the policy which he thinks ought to be adopted? Is he in favour of that strong, I might almost say that violent policy, which was advocated by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth? Do you think that the rejection of these proposals will benefit Egypt? You know perfectly well it will not. You know perfectly well, upon the authority of such men as Mr. Cookson, whose Report I have read, that the material prosperity of Egypt, which is the same thing as the prosperity of the Fellaheen, depends upon the settlement of the financial situation, and that if we delay that settlement we shall plunge the Fellaheen into the misery from which they were slowly emerging. Do you think you will safeguard British interests by rejecting this arrangement? No; you will not. You will, certainly, place this country in a difficult position in the face of the Great Powers. Do you think—and this, I suppose, is an argument I ought to address to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), rather than to right hon. Gentlemen opposite—do you think you will injure the bondholders? because that I believe to be the great object of my hon. Friends. No; I do not think you will. The bondholder, who under the Law of Liquidation has a priority, will continue to insist upon having his pound of flesh. As you will not benefit the Fellaheen, as you will not benefit this country, as you will not injure the bondholders, I ask you what do you think you will obtain by the re- 762 jection of this arrangement? I wish now to say a few words on the other subject which is touched upon in the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce). In his speech he dwelt but little upon it, although it is a most material part of the Resolution he has placed on the Table of the House. He has asked us to condemn not merely the International Arrangement with regard to Egyptian finance, but also to express disapproval of the arrangements contemplated with regard to the Suez Canal; and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) declared, in accents of terror, that we had sacrificed the position of this country in the Suez Canal. What he actually meant by the position of this country in the Suez Canal I was not able to make out, because he did not attempt a single word of explanation. My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) went into detail on this subject. As I understand, he did not condemn this arrangement, and I need not remind the Committee that he speaks with great authority upon this question, being himself a Suez Canal Director, and having held an important position in connection with the Chambers of Commerce of this country. Therefore, when I hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) declaring that we have sacrificed the position of England in the Suez Canal, and I find my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) saying we have not, I am inclined to think that the weight of authority is on this side of the House. [Mr. R. N. FOWLER: Oh, oh!] I am sorry to trouble the Committee at this late hour (12.50) with details; but they are necessary for the case of the Government. The position of this country in the Suez Canal is undoubtedly one of the very greatest importance; and if Her Majesty's Government had in any way neglected it, or if they were about to compromise or sacrifice it, or to show that they did not recognize it, no doubt they would be worthy of the severest condemnation. But, Sir, I think I can show to the Committee we have done none of these things. It is absolutely necessary that the position of the Suez Canal should be settled in a definite 763 manner. The word "neutralization" has been freely used in connection with this question. We are told that we are preparing and proposing an arrangement for the neutralization of the Suez Canal. I rather regret that that word has been imported into this debate; it is not used, so far as I know, in the Declaration and Convention that has been signed. What the Powers have agreed to is this—That they are to make a permanent arrangement with regard to the position of the Suez Canal—a permanent arrangement. I think those are the actual words, although I am quoting from memory. Now the expression "permanent arrangement" in itself shows the origin of what has been done. There is no doubt that at this moment the position of the Suez Canal, from the point of view of International Law, is one which is unsatisfactory, which is uncertain, and one not unattended with danger. There has been a great deal of writing and discussion on the subject of the Suez Canal from the point of view of International Law, and any person who has followed the discussions must be fully aware that it is one of those cases in which all the doctors disagree. Learned Professors have bombarded one another in the columns of rival reviews. Learned lawyers have written articles in magazines devoted to the legal aspects of the subject; but they are all agreed upon one thing, and that is, to disagree with one another. Only last year, or the year before last, I recollect a great controversy between the Chichele Professor of International Law at Oxford and the Deputy Professor of International Law at Cambridge on the question of the position of the Suez Canal. Sir, the position of the Suez Canal is a mixed one. Some people have written of it as if everything was to turn upon its being considered as a sort of arm of the sea, others have written upon it as if the whole case depended upon the fact that it is an artificial, as distinct from a natural channel, and others, again, have written as if the whole case depended upon its being a great International work, in which all the nations of Europe have an interest. Sir, it is perfectly true that the Suez Canal is or may be regarded, to a certain extent, as an arm of the sea; but that is not all. It is also true that the Suez Canal is an 764 artificial channel; but that is not all. And it is true that the Suez Canal may be regarded as a great International work in what nearly all the nations of Europe, especially this country, have an interest; but that also is not all. The other day I was looking over an article written by Mr. Laurence, the Deputy Professor of International Law at Cambridge, a gentleman to whom I have previously referred. It struck me that the learned Professor put the case of the Suez Canal so fairly, that perhaps the Committee will pardon me if I ask them to consider the views put forward. Mr. Laurence said—A close examination of the case will recall the following points:—(1) The Suez Canal is a narrow strait between two open seas; (2) it is wholly within the territory of one Power; (3) it is an artificial channel; (4) it is so narrow that the use of it for purposes of active warfare closes it to commerce; (5) it was made and is worked by a commercial Company, under concessions from the Khedive, confirmed by the Sultan; (6) the Company has an undisputed right to levy tolls for profit on vessels using the Canal; (7) it had more or less an International character and constitution; (8) various Powers have from time to time entered into negotiations with it and with one another concerning the Canal; (9) legally the Sovereignty over the territory through which the Canal is cut is shared between the Khedive and the Sultan; but as a matter of fact the British Government exercises much more control over the former than his nominal Suzerain, England being in her turn restrained by the necessity of obtaining the assent of the European Concert for any very important steps she may wish to take. From one set of attributes we might argue that the Canal was, in law, a narrow strait between two open seas; from another, that it was an inland waterway, subject entirely to the authority of the local Sovereign; and from a third, that it was a great International work under the control of the leading Powers of Europe. At every turn it presents a conflict of analogies. In some respects it resembles the Solent, or the Little Belt, in others the Crinan Canal, in others the mouth of the Danube. It is anomalous, and everything about it is anomalous. None but itself can be its parallel. Never before in modern times has there been a Suez Canal; never a Canal Company so constituted and so privileged. Never has Sovereignty over so important a portion of the earth's surface been so strangely shared between a number of Powers. Never have stubborn facts been more at variance with diplomatic fictions. Never have the rights of a territorial Power been more lavishly granted away, or more cavalierly set aside.Now, what is the deduction from that? That you cannot trust the ordinary doctrines of International Law recognized with regard to arms of the sea or territorial waters as a safeguard with regard 765 to the Suez Canal, and that it is absolutely necessary to draw up an International Convention putting all the questions, which may arise and some of which have arisen beyond any possibility of doubt, and also beyond the possibility of being a future source of danger to the peace of the world; for it is certain that as the Suez Canal goes on being used in an increased degree by the nations of Europe the probability of difficult questions arising will increase. I need not remind the Committee that in 1877 there was the famous despatch of the Earl of Derby, claiming for the Suez Canal an exceptional position with regard to the hostilities between Russia and Turkey. Then, again, during the Expedition of Lord Wolseley to Egypt which preceded the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, the Canal was to a very great extent the scene of military operations, and the commerce of the nations going through the Canal was for the time interfered with and interrupted. Grave objection was taken in some quarters to those proceedings; and it was argued not only by foreign jurists, but by English lawyers, that if we accept the position of the Suez Canal being an arm of the sea, the right which was exercised by the English Naval and Military Commanders to interfere with the commerce of neutrals passing through the Canal was a right which ought not to have been exercised. Therefore, Sir, it is clear that it is absolutely necessary, once and for all, to settle the International position of the Suez Canal. In that view we cannot trust to the ordinary analogies of International Law with regard to arms of the sea or territorial waters. The Suez Canal must be dealt with by special regulation, and that is what has now been agreed upon by the Great Powers, and which will be carried out. I can only now say, in conclusion, that on behalf of the Office I have the honour to represent in this House, I submit, with all deference, but also in a spirit of confidence, the arrangement that has been made with the Powers to the friendly consideration and the approval of this Committee, and afterwards of the House. I believe that if the House approves this arrangement, we then may feel that that period of great difficulty with regard to Egypt with which this 766 House and this nation, and, indeed, the nations of Europe, have been labouring is beginning to draw to a close—that we may say we begin to see light. Ear be it from me to say I believe that the affairs of Egypt will not for many a long day be a source of debate and discussion in this House; but I believe that if this arrangement is accepted by Parliament, it will in future be recognized as the beginning of a permanent and satisfactory settlement, and one that will be for the benefit of all parties concerned. I may venture to use the words of our great poet—But look! the dawn, in russet mantle clad, Walks o'er the skirts of yon high Eastern hill.I will not go on, because the next line, I believe—I am quoting from memory —says—Break we our watch,and I know it will be a very long time before we can cease to watch and think about Egyptian affairs. But, although for many a long day and many a long year the affairs of Egypt will continue to form matter of anxiety and discussion, I believe that by this arrangement we shall have taken a marked and material step towards the attainment of those three objects which have always been the aim of the Government—namely, the improvement of the condition of the population of Egypt, which in the past has suffered great injustice and grievous wrong; secondly, the recognition in full measure of all the International obligations which bind us and the other nations of Europe; and last, though not least, the maintenance of the prestige and reputation of this country.
MR. E. N. FOWLER
said, that as the noble Lord (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) had alluded to him he wished to say that the noble Lord knew as well as he (Mr. E. N. Fowler) did that he (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) held the conscience of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk). Whatever the noble Lord recommended the hon. Member for Gloucester would support; and, therefore, he (Mr. E. N. Fowler) must disclaim the noble Lord's allusion.
Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.